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A dissertation submitted to the Iaculty oI the University oI North Carolina at Chapel Hill
in partial IulIillment oI the requirements Ior the degree oI Doctor oI Philosophy in the
Department oI Classics.
Advisor: Peter M. Smith
Reader: James J. O’Hara
Reader: Owen E. Goslin
Reader: Cecil W. Wooten
Reader: Sharon L. James
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A AA ABSTRACT BSTRACT BSTRACT BSTRACT
ARUM PARK: Truth, Falsehood, and Reciprocity in Pindar and Aeschylus
(Under the direction oI Peter M. Smith)
The numerous studies oI truth and Ialsehood in Greek thought are quite varied in
scope and methodology but tend to Iall into one oI two categories: detailed word-studies
that identiIy and explicate terms Ior truth and Ialsehood, usually in the poetry oI Homer
and Hesiod, or general explorations oI the nature oI truth and the processes Ior its
Iormation across Greek literature.
This study seeks to Iill the gaps leIt by these two approaches by combining
meticulous examination oI Aeschylus’ and Pindar’s terms Ior truth and Ialsehood with a
broader discussion oI how truth and Ialsehood operate in their poetry. The Iocus is on
passages that explicitly mention truth and Ialsehood, an approach that generates
conclusions both about the use oI these terms and about the inIluence oI these concepts
on a poet’s selI-conscious purpose. The major claims are that Aeschylean and Pindaric
truth and Ialsehood are generically determined concepts and are incorporated in
relationships or cycles oI reciprocity integral to each poet’s genre.
Thus truth and Ialsehood cannot be understood without adequate consideration oI
genre and purpose. As a praise poet, Pindar’s aims are twoIold: he must convince his
audience oI his devotion to the person he is tasked with praising (the laudandus), and he
must persuade them that his claims about the laudandus are accurate. He thus
incorporates truth into the relationship he constructs between himselI and the laudandus
by espousing a truth that combines sincerity with accuracy and by denouncing Ialsehood
Ior the threat it poses to this relationship.
Aeschylus likewise assimilates truth and Ialsehood to his poetic purpose. Since
his primary concern as a tragedian is to present plots oI retributive violence, ideas about
truth and Ialsehood appear in contexts oI belieI or disbelieI. Thus characters who speak
truth are believed or disbelieved in accordance with what will Iacilitate plots about
violent reprisal; similarly, whether characters successIully or unsuccessIully enact a
deception depends on what is required to tell a story oI reciprocal aggression.
To Oma and Dori
A AA ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS CKNOWLEDGEMENTS CKNOWLEDGEMENTS CKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This project could not have seen the light oI day without the help oI many people,
some oI whom I will undoubtedly neglect to mention here. Thanks are owed to my two
advisors: William Race patiently oversaw the project in its inceptive stages, and Peter
Smith, a veritable Iont oI encouragement, enthusiastically and good-naturedly walked
me—and when necessary, pushed me—through its completion. I am grateIul to my
readers: James O’Hara provided needed support in the Iorm oI quick but careIul
readings, challenging suggestions, and humorous anecdotes; Sharon James helped me
think about the bigger picture oI this project and identiIied its promising contributions;
Cecil Wooten reminded me to be meticulous and straightIorward; Owen Goslin, who
gamely stepped on board in the late stages oI the project, nevertheless provided
admirably incisive comments and an endless supply oI helpIul advice.
I owe a debt oI gratitude to Amherst College and Five Colleges, Inc. Ior a
dissertation Iellowship Iunding my writing and research and Ior the supportive
Iriendships I Iormed during my year in Massachusetts. Thanks to Becky, Dale, and
Melba Sinos, Andreola Rossi, Christopher Trinacty, Sara Upton, Laurie Moran, Melissa
Mueller, Alicia Ellis, Raina Uhden, and NAPOF (Emily, Tim, Sara, Jun, and Michael).
HeartIelt thanks to my Chapel Hill Iamily. Anderson Wiltshire, Rebekah Smith
(thanks Ior the dissertation monkey!), John and Franny Henkel, Rob and Courtney
Vander Poppen, Erika Zimmermann Damer, Liz Robinson, Amanda Mathis, Cinnamon
Weaver and Kim Miles always lent Iriendly ears to my concerns. I have had more than
one intellectually stimulating/humbling conversation with Derek Smith and John
Esposito. Lucy Schenkman, Andy Desimone, and Isaac and Rayna Weiner each did their
bit to preserve my sanity.
Thanks also to Victor Bers and Lauren ApIel, who have kept in touch with me
since my liIe in Classics began.
I would never have survived graduate school, much less the dissertation, without
the endless love oI my Iamily. Thanks to Wyatt and Trixie Ior making me laugh and to
my mother Youngtae Shin, my sister Dawn Park Hamilton, and my husband David
Carlisle, all oI whom believed in me, served as my role models, listened to me, and never
stopped cheering me on.
T TT TABLE OF ABLE OF ABLE OF ABLE OF C CC CONTENTS ONTENTS ONTENTS ONTENTS
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER O OO ONE NE NE NE: :: : INTRODUCTION........................................................................................... 1
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER T TT TWO WO WO WO: :: : TERMS FOR TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD....................................................... 17
LSJ ................................................................................................................................ 18
uπuτη, δoλος ............................................................................................................. 21
AESCHYLUS ................................................................................................................... 22
TRUTH ....................................................................................................................... 22
FALSEHOOD ............................................................................................................... 31
PINDAR .......................................................................................................................... 37
TRUTH ....................................................................................................................... 37
FALSEHOOD AND DECEPTION..................................................................................... 43
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER T TT THREE HREE HREE HREE: :: : TRUTH, FALSEHOOD, AND XENIA IN PINDAR........................................ 48
PART ONE: TRUTH AND XENIA ......................................................................................... 48
TRUTH AND PRAISE: OLYMPIAN 1............................................................................. 50
TRUTH PERSONIFIED.................................................................................................. 55
REALITY AND POETRY: NEMEAN 7............................................................................ 65
PART TWO: FALSEHOOD, DECEPTION, AND XENIA........................................................ 76
PSEUDOS AND XENIA: THREE TYPES OF OPPOSITION................................................ 77
1. The Interweaving oI Poetic Obligation and Myth in Olympian 1 ................... 77
2. Pseudos as Punishment Ior Violating Xenia: Ixion in Pythian 2.................... 82
3. Sex, Lies, and the Guest-Host Relationship:
The Hera-Cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta............................................................. 89
EXCURSUS: MALE SEDUCTION................................................................................ 104
C CC CHAPT HAPT HAPT HAPTER ER ER ER F FF FOUR OUR OUR OUR: :: : WHAT IS TRUTH TO AESCHYLUS?......................................................... 114
VERBAL ALETHEIA ...................................................................................................... 114
Manipulating the Contrast Between Truth and Hope ............................................. 117
WHERE IS THE TRUTH TO BE FOUND? WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH?............................... 121
1. Nonverbal Signals.............................................................................................. 121
2. Messengers......................................................................................................... 129
3. Prophecy ............................................................................................................ 132
GENDER AND CREDIBILITY? ........................................................................................ 139
TRUTH, FALSEHOOD, AND EXCHANGE......................................................................... 150
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER F FF FIVE IVE IVE IVE: :: : CONCLUSION.......................................................................................... 158
B BB BIBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................ 164
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER O OO ONE NE NE NE: :: : I II INTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION
This dissertation addresses the topics oI truth and Ialsehood in the poetry oI
Pindar and Aeschylus. Studies oI aletheia in Greek thought have been abundant,
probably because oI a modern Iascination with the idea oI truth, but most oI the work has
Iocused on Homer and to some extent Hesiod. For example, Luther’s 1935 book
examines Homeric and Hesiodic terms Ior truth and lies,
while Levet Iollows up Iorty
years later with a more detailed study oI such words and their contexts in Homer.
Luther makes a valuable contribution with his implicit argument that aletheia can cover a
range oI meanings, as Heidegger himselI pointed out,
and his insight that truth has wide-
ranging implications Ior speech, poetry, and justice. Levet argues that aletheia/alethes
denotes an absence oI concealment; his word-study concludes that the various Greek
words Ior truth and Ialsehood reIlect the psychological disposition oI the Greeks and thus
cannot Iind exact equivalents in modern languages.
The scholar most persistently Iocused on aletheia is Detienne, whose inIluential
1960 article “La notion mythique d’Aλqθεια” argues IorceIully Ior an opposition between
See Luther 1935, 14: “Heidegger…unterscheidet zwischen uλqθεια als „Charakter der Aussage“ und
uλqθεια, die die „Sachen selbst“ bedeutet, „das Seiende im Wie seiner Entdecktheit“.”
Levet 1976, 17. Adkins 1972, 12 seems to disagree: “True statements about present events which Iall
within the experience oI the person making them have the same relation to ‘the Iacts’ in any society, literate
or non-literate and are conIirmable in the same manner; and iI an individual wishes to know the truth about
an important (recently) past event in a non-literate society, the Iact that he is a member oI a society makes it
possible Ior him to ask other members about the event; and iI diIIerent people give him the same account,
their agreement will be more in the IoreIront oI his mind than the Iact that, had they Iorgotten what
happened, they would be unable to tell him anything. These situations are surely the majority, and
certainly suIIice to produce a concept oI truth quite Iamiliar to ourselves.”
uλqθεια and λqθη in the mythical thought oI the ancient Greeks. Seeking to contribute to
Heidegger’s well known observations about aletheia’s etymology, Detienne adds a new
dimension by examining the imagery surrounding aletheia in mythical representations
such as in Plato’s Phaedrus. His argument Iurther points out similarities between aletheia
and Hesiod’s Muses and thus concludes that truth and memory are nearly equivalent.
Detienne’s article precedes a series oI discussions concerning the semantic Iields
oI words Ior truth, oI which one oI the most cited is Krischer’s 1965 article clariIying the
diIIerences oI perspective between etumos and alethes in Homer.
Snell and Cole have
written more recent studies oI aletheia, both oI which similarly Iocus on its leth-root and
the perspective therein.
The somewhat myopic preoccupation oI these studies has been
with the etymology oI aletheia Irom lethe, which is probably correct, but not
unquestionably so, and thus remains a problematic Iocus. In Plato’s Cratylus 421b
Socrates posits ale and theia as possible roots oI aletheia, which would thereIore
etymologically mean “a wandering that is divine.” He is being ironic oI course, but even
the playIul Cratylus with its tongue-in-cheek etymologies useIully reminds us to question
our own assumptions. Aside Irom the (slight) possibility that aletheia does not derive
Irom lethe, an additional problem is that Greek words in context, just like English words,
do not always reIlect their etymological meanings. Just as modern English “idiot” does
not retain its original Greek sense, there is no reason to assume that aletheia must always
convey the opposite oI Iorgetting or concealment. II that were indeed the case, aletheia
would appear most oIten in tandem with ideas oI memory and perhaps bear some
discernible relation to time as a Iactor in preserving or hindering memory, but it does not.
CI. Krischer 1965, 167: “Diese Stellen zeigen allesamt, daß der Bezug auI den Sprecher, der Iür uληθqς
charakteristisch ist, bei cτυµος Iehlt.”
See Snell 1975 and Cole 1983.
For example, Pindar’s aphorism about the way oI truth in Pythian 3 bears little relevance
to a lack oI Iorgetting or oblivion: εi δc νoç τις cχει θνατeν uλαθεiας oδoν, χρq πρoς
µακuρων , τυγχuνοντ’ εi πασχcµεν (“II any mortal has in mind the way oI truth, he must
suIIer well what happens Irom the gods,” Pyth. 3.103-105). Aletheia here designates
“what generally happens” and shows no sense oI time or reIerence to historical record.
Previous aletheia-studies include sparse—iI any—reIerence to epinician or
tragedy. No extensive study oI Aeschylean terms Ior truth and Ialsehood has been
published, and there is only one devoted solely to Pindar: Komornicka’s work examines
the nuances oI various words, some that obviously and expectedly denote truth or
Ialsehood (e.g., uλuθεια, cτυµος, ψεiδος), while others are less commonly associated
with these concepts (e.g., µαχανu, τcχνα, βουλu). She identiIies eight possible aspects oI
truth, each oI which, she argues, Pindaric uλuθεια denotes at one time or another.
valuable and meticulous work demonstrates that aletheia has a much wider range in
Pindar than in Homer or Hesiod and thus merits Iurther attention. As I will discuss in
Chapter Two, aletheia in Homer has largely to do with spoken utterances;
context may indicate a desire Ior sincerity or authenticity when one speaks oI aletheia,
these senses are not inherent in the word itselI.
Hesiod’s poetry presents a greater range
Ior aletheia/alethes—Ior example, the use oI these words to characterize speakers and not
These possible aspects are: “le reel,” “l’authentique,” “l’essentiel (oppose a l’illusoire, a l’apparent),” “le
vrai dans toute oeuvre poetique qui s’appuie sur l’imitation de la realite (oppose a Iiction pure),” “le vrai
sur le plan moral de la veracite (sincere, veridique, Iidele) par rapport a l’homme, a ses paroles et a ses
actes et par rapport a la divinite,” “le vrai c’est-a-dire ce qui est propre, correct (right, appropriate),” “le
vrai, ce qui est veriIiable, ce qui se laisse prouver par rapport,” and “le vraisemblable (verisimile,
wahrscheinlich et scheinbar).” Komornicka 1979, 252.
CI. Cole 1983, 9, who also observes that uλqθεια/uληθqς in Homer reIers to spoken truths.
CI. Adkins 1972, who examines Homeric situations oI truth-telling and concludes that pleasantness,
indicated by phrases like κατu κoσµον, is a more valued component oI truthIul speech than uλqθεια and
may even denote truthIulness or veracity. One example Adkins cites is Odysseus’ praise oI Demodocus’
song in Od. 8.487-491.
only their utterances—but again Ialls short oI this Iull range oI meanings, perhaps
partially as a consequence oI the limited number oI examples. Komornicka leaves Ior
other scholars to determine how these diIIerent aspects oI truth might be related to
generic tendencies oI epinician poetry, a topic that I will probe in this dissertation. Her
work is strictly a word-study and does not explicitly try to explain her Iindings in terms
Scholarship that discusses truth and Ialsehood beyond the limits oI a word-study
does not pay Iocused attention to these issues in Pindar or Aeschylus. Within a much
larger volume Bremer devotes several pages to Pindaric truth that amount to a survey and
summary oI the various reIerences to truth in the odes. He makes some notable points,
particularly on the role oI the poet as a seer who interprets and clariIies a hidden or
but leaves room Ior Iuture scholars to deepen his observations. The two
most inIluential works on truth and Ialsehood in Greek poetry are Detienne’s seminal The
Masters oI Truth and Louise Pratt’s Lying and Poetry Irom Homer to Pindar. The central
premise oI Detienne’s book, like his earlier article, is the equivalence he posits between
truth and memory that is based on the etymology oI aletheia. Reasoning that modern
conceptions oI truth should not cloud our understanding oI aletheia, he argues that in the
pre-literate societies oI archaic Greece, the role oI truth-tellers (who, Ior Detienne, are
oral poets, seers, and kings) is to preserve existence through memorialization oI people or
events: not to be talked about is to be Iorgotten and thus, in the absence oI written
historical record, to cease to exist.
Detienne’s work is not without its detractors,
Bremer 1976, 301-310.
See Detienne 1996, esp. 39-52.
notably Adkins, who argues that the archaic Greeks had a conception oI truth similar to a
modern one, regardless oI their illiteracy.
Pratt’s work explores the other side oI the truth-Ialsehood dichotomy by
examining the relationship between poets and liars and Iocusing on the idea oI Iiction in
early Greek poetry. She engages with the prevailing notion oI poets as truth-tellers
argue that selI-consciously Iictional elements appear in Greek poetry:
The way reIlection on truth and lies is Iormulated in archaic poetry leaves
room Ior archaic appreciation oI Iictional narrative, narrative that is
acknowledged to be made-up, invented, a product oI the poetic
imagination. (Pratt 1993, 7)
Her chapter on epinician poetry takes up this thesis, pointing out that Pindar and
Bacchylides make claims to truth to validate their praise, but noting that these claims do
not amount to
a rejection oI Iictional elements in mythical narrative. Rather, the way
truth claims are handled in epinician creates a distinction between victor
praise and mythical narrative, so that separate standards are applied to
each…mythical narrative must conIorm not so much to the truth…as to
the standards oI decorum that regulate traditional narrative poetry. (Pratt
Both Pratt and Detienne have a Iondness Ior neatly aligned oppositions: Pratt identiIies
truth and Ialsehood as important issues in epinician only insoIar as they enable accurate
praise and blame,
a dichotomy that, according to Detienne, parallels aletheia-lethe.
These oppositions correctly imply that praise is the primary goal oI epinician and thus
adhere to Bundy’s view that “there is no passage in Pindar and Bakkhulides that is not in
See Adkins 1972, esp. 11.
Proponents oI this notion include Luther 1935, Ortega 1970, and Detienne 1996.
Pratt 1993, 115. CI. Hubbard 1985, 100-106.
Detienne 1996, 49.
its primary intent encomiastic—that is, designed to enhance the glory oI a particular
I aim, however, to add more detailed explanation than what Pratt and Detienne
oIIer in their respective works. Furthermore, neither scholar signiIicantly incorporates
Aeschylus into his discussion, but as I will explain below, what Aeschylus’ characters
say about truth and Ialsehood can provide critical comparanda Ior Pindar’s treatments oI
Despite comparative inattention to Pindar and Aeschylus, both poets’ treatments
oI truth and Ialsehood warrant more Iocused study. In Pindar the sheer Irequency oI
truth-telling claims indicates the importance oI truth to his epinician program, as does the
variety oI Iorms these claims take: the poet proIesses truth through denials oI Ialsehood
(cI. Ol. 4.17, 13.52; Pyth. 2.83; Nem. 1.18, 7.49), metaphors designating accuracy,
oaths or wishes (Ol. 2.92, 6.20-21, 7.20-21, 13.98-100; Pyth. 1.42-45; Nem. 7.70, 8.35-
36), declarations oI Iriendship (Nem. 7.61-63), and occasional invocations to a goddess
Alatheia (Ol. 10.4, Fr. 205), in itselI a striking and unusual personiIication (as I will
discuss in Chapter Three).
In addition to his own claims oI truthIulness Pindar implies that the duty oI poets
in general is to combine artistry with accuracy. In Nemean 7 he praises Homer’s skill,
Bundy 1986, 3.
E.g., cπεχε νiν σκοπ( τoξον, úγε θυµc (“Now hold the bow to the target, come, my heart,” Ol. 2.89);
γνeναi τ’ cπειτ’, uρχαiον óνειδος uλuθεσιν , λoγοις εi φεuγοµεν, Βιωτiαν iν. cσσi γαρ úγγελος oρθoς, ,
qυκoµων σκυτuλα Μοισuν, γλυκuς κρατqρ uγαφθcγκτων uοιδuν (“and then to know iI we escape the
ancient taunt oI Boeotian pig with our true words, Ior you are a true messenger, a message stick oI the Iair-
haired Muses, a sweet bowl oI songs that ring clear,” Ol. 6.89-91); cµc δ’ εuθuν uκoντων , icντα poµβον
παρu σκοπoν οu χρq , τu πολλu βcλεα καρτuνειν χεροiν (“But when I hurl the whirling javelins on a
straight path, I must not hurl those many missiles Irom my hands and miss the mark,” Ol. 13.93-95);
αúξεται καi Μοiσα δι’ uγγελiας oρθuς (“The Muse also is exalted through true reporting,” Pyth. 4.279);
cλποµαι , µcγα εiπeν σκοποi úντα τυχεiν , eτ’ uπo τoξου iεiς (“I hope to speak a great claim and to hit the
mark head on, as iI shooting Irom a bow,” Nem. 6. 26-28); µαθeν δc τις uνερεi, , εi πuρ µcλος cρχοµαι
ψuγιον óαρον cννcπων (“One who knows me will declare iI I come and speak a crooked utterance out oI
tune,” Nem. 7.8-69); πολλu γuρ πολλµ λcλεκται, νεαρu δ’ cξευρoντα δoµεν βασuνç cς cλεγχον, úπας
κiνδυνος (“For many things have been said in many ways, but it is complete danger to discover new ones
and put them to the test on a touchstone,” Nem. 8.20-21).
but Iaults his mendacity (7.20-23), while in Olympian 1 he Iamously criticizes previous
accounts oI the Tantalos and Pelops myth as untrue while seeming to praise the charis oI
q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι
Χuρις δ`, úπερ úπαντα τεuχει τu µεiλιχα θνατοiς,
cπιφcροισα τιµuν καi úπιστον cµqσατο πιστoν
cµµεναι τo πολλuκις. (Ol. 1.28-32)
Indeed, there are many wonders, and somehow the speeches oI mortals,
stories, have been embellished beyond the true account and deceive with
intricate Ialsehoods; Ior Charis, who provides mortals with all pleasant
things, oIten renders the incredible credible by bringing honor.
These statements are in and oI themselves unsurprising, but they are undermined by a
assertion that poets ought to speak well oI the gods: cστι δ’ uνδρi φuµεν cοικoς uµφi
δαιµoνων καλu· µεiων γuρ αiτiα (“It is Iitting Ior a man to say good things about the
gods, Ior the blame is less,” Ol. 1.35). The idea that a poet ought to do what is Iitting
(cοικoς) seems incongruous with Pindar’s immediately previous criticism oI inaccuracy
in other poetry, and thus raises the interpretive question oI what role truth and Ialsehood
must play in poetry. Similar questions are raised when the poet circumvents Iull
disclosure in Nemean 5:
στuσοµαι· οú τοι úπασα κερδiων
φαiνοισα πρoσωπον uλuθει` uτρεκcς·
καi τo σιγuν πολλuκις cστi σοφeτατον uνθρeπç νοqσαι. (Nem. 5.16-18)
I will stand back; indeed, not every truth is more proIitable when it shows
its precise Iace. And oIten keeping silent is wisest Ior a man to think.
The poet’s hesitation to speak ill oI Peleus and Telamon ostensibly showcases his desire
to speak the truth only when expedient, yet in other contexts he purports to be a truthIul
poet. The abundance and variety oI his truth claims must be reconciled with these
questionable statements about the relationship between truth and poetic content.
Some oI this incongruity can be explained with recourse to Plato, whose
recommendations about poetry in the kallipolis echo Pindar’s comments about poetic
duty. Socrates in the Republic prescribes how stories will be chosen in the ideal state:
Then we must Iirst oI all, it seems, supervise the storytellers. We’ll select
their stories whenever they are Iine or beautiIul (καλoν) and reject them
when they aren’t. And we’ll persuade nurses and mothers to tell their
children the ones we have selected, since they will shape their children’s
souls with stories much more than they shape their bodies by handling
them. (Rep. 2.377b-c)
According to Socrates the aesthetic quality oI stories must determine their inclusion in
the kallipolis; he qualiIies such stories as truthIul when he later excludes much oI Homer,
Hesiod, and other poets Ior being untrue (οiτοι γuρ που µuθους τοiς uνθρeποις ψευδεiς
συντιθcντες cλεγoν τε καi λcγουσι, 377d). His criterion that stories be Iine or beautiIul
(καλoν) and not Ialse (ψευδεiς) resemble Pindar’s comments in Olympian 1 about
combining art with truth, but he then makes a surprising point about the importance oI a
First, telling the greatest Ialsehood about the most important thing doesn’t
make a Iine story—I mean Hesiod telling us about how Uranus behaved,
how Cronus punished him Ior it, and how he was in turn punished by his
own son. But even iI it were true (οuδ' uν εi qν uληθq), it should be
passed over in silence (σιγuσθαι), not told to Ioolish young people.
The implication is that unIlattering stories about the gods are likely untrue, but whatever
truth they may have to them should be edited Ior the sake oI decency.
From C.D.C. Reeve’s 1992 revision oI G.M.A. Grube’s translation.
Like Plato, Pindar seemingly privileges silence over truth in certain contexts, and
the similarities between their respective instructions about the truth oI myth and its
ultimate importance are striking.
But Pindar’s rationale Ior speaking well oI the gods
and heroes diIIers Irom Plato’s. While Socrates in the Republic argues that poetry should
play an educative role by depicting models oI good behavior, Pindar’s hesitation to
slander the gods and heroes seems to stem Irom selI-interest, Ior he makes reIerence to
the blame and impoverishment that await the unIlattering poet. These diIIerences alone
indicate that a strictly Platonic explanation oI Pindar’s relationship to truth is
The complexity oI truth in Pindar is Iurther deepened by the poet’s unusual uses
oI words Ior truth, which, aside Irom his two invocations to Alatheia, are Ior the most
part separate Irom his truth claims. At the very least Pindar’s conception oI truth and its
role in poetry is rather complicated: he does not wholeheartedly embrace the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but he does not completely subordinate truth to his
praise either. Pindar’s putative adherence to accuracy, coupled with his distinctive
language oI truth, begs examination both oI his terms Ior truth and Ialsehood and oI the
contexts in which they appear.
For Iurther discussion oI Pindar’s and Plato’s views oI poetry, see Komornicka 1984. For a biographical
comparison between Pindar and Plato, see des Places 1949.
Furthermore, a Platonic interpretation oI any body oI work is untenable iI Ior no other reason than that
the breadth and concomitant inconsistencies within the Platonic corpus itselI make any Iirm notion oI a
“Platonic reading” highly problematic. The density and proIundity oI Pindaric thought are certainly
remarkable and, I believe, inherently consistent, but iI any philosophical bent occurs in the poetry, it is
unique to Pindar and cannot be narrowly identiIied with only one branch oI philosophy. A truly thorough
examination oI Pindaric “philosophy” would have to take into account many philosophical branches, and
such a project was beyond the scope oI this dissertation. Finally, even iI possible, a strictly Platonic
interpretation would have detracted and distracted Irom a deeper understanding oI Pindar’s poetry and its
Aeschylus too has been given short shriIt in scholarly discussions oI truth and
Ialsehood, even though his treatments oI these concepts raise many unanswered
questions. As I will discuss in the next chapter, Aeschylus pays homage to his Homeric
predecessor by treating truth and Ialsehood as verbal entities, but he expands the scope oI
application oI words Ior truth and Ialsehood: aletheia or alethes in Aeschylus can reIer to
accuracy or to sincerity, whereas Homeric uses are limited to the Iormer application;
Iurthermore, Homer reserves aletheia/alethes Ior statements about the past, but Aeschylus
expands the time dimension oI truth by designating statements about either past or Iuture
as true or Ialse. The contexts in which truth and Ialsehood appear also demand
examination, as they point up the issue oI who possesses the truth. Without the third-
person narrator oI epic or Iirst-person oI lyric, tragedy less clearly indicates where
authority over truth and Ialsehood lies, thus engendering an interplay oI doubt and belieI.
Moreover, tragedy’s point-counterpoint interaction between characters Iorms an
interesting way in which to view truth and Ialsehood, Ior it allows us to examine these
concepts through the lens oI credibility and to consider which criteria mark characters as
inherently truthIul or not. When the Chorus oI the Agamemnon question Clytemnestra’s
knowledge oI Troy’s Iall, do they demonstrate Aeschylus’ adherence to traditional
prejudices against Iemale credibility or his challenge to them? In both Pindar and
Aeschylus gender is a considerable Iactor as something to be considered in contexts oI
truth and Ialsehood, yet the scholarly treatment oI gender in Pindar is eIIectively
nonexistent, while scholarship on gender in tragedy has not included much discussion oI
truth and Ialsehood.
I have determined that there is need Ior studies oI truth and Ialsehood in
Aeschylus and in Pindar, but what justiIies discussion oI both in one work? Comparison
oI these two poets is not unprecedented: John Finley published his lectures on Pindar and
Aeschylus in one volume (1955), and the Oresteia myth in Pythian 11 has occasioned at
least one critical essay comparing Pindar’s rendition with that oI Aeschylus
as well as a
commentary on the ode that includes similar comparison between the two treatments oI
On the simplest level there is the coincidence oI time period: both poets
were composing during the same decades oI the 5
century BCE, a contemporaneity that
invites comparative study and elicits observations oI diIIerences between the poets in
terms oI Iocus. The traditional view is that Pindar, as a Boeotian praise poet, looks
backward to preserve aristocratic and heroic ideals, while Aeschylus, an Athenian during
the city’s golden age, exalts progressivism and democracy. The broad truth oI this view
can be explained partly by diIIerences oI genre. Pindar’s epinician task demands praise
that is easily recognizable as such and thus draws on the Iamiliar heroes oI old as models
Ior the present athletic victors. Tragedy, by contrast, presents irresolvable conIlicts that
undermine tradition and challenge the status quo. Although some would argue that
Aeschylus ultimately upholds tradition,
his tragedy at the very least problematizes and
perhaps overtly criticizes it.
The primary claim oI this dissertation is that both Pindar’s and Aeschylus’
treatments oI truth and Ialsehood must be understood within the context oI their
respective genres. While Pindar’s underlying purpose, as Bundy says, may be to praise
the victor, he expresses this purpose as a duty to tell the truth. Pindar couches his claims
in terms oI truth and Ialsehood, but these terms in turn are deIined as part oI the
E.g., Thomson 1941, Jones 1962, Vickers 1973 on the sexual conIlicts oI the Oresteia. See Betensky
1978, 11 Ior a summary oI their speciIic arguments and Iurther discussion.
relationship oI obligation and reciprocity between poet and victor. He thus deIines truth
in terms oI praise to the victor by implicating aletheia as part oI his poetic duty.
Aeschylus, on the other hand, has a diIIerent purpose, which is to tell the story oI a
mythical or historical change oI Iortune, as Aristotle would say. He incorporates truth
and Ialsehood as part oI this storyline by creating issues oI credibility in the dialogue
between characters. Whether various characters are perceived as truthIul or not Iurthers
the plot, which oIten centers on retributive justice.
This dissertation represents an amalgam oI various approaches and is heavily
indebted to an eclectic mix oI scholarship. The Iirst chapter seeks to emulate the rigorous
scrutiny oI a word-study, but subsequent chapters aim to synthesize the data into a
uniIied thesis. I endeavor to deepen and broaden the studies oI Pratt and Detienne, both
oI whom pay little attention to Pindar and none to Aeschylus. Pratt discusses epinician
poetry more extensively than Detienne, but she examines primarily passages that reIer
directly to poetry. I expand on her discussion by including examination oI the mythical
content as also applicable to Pindar’s views on truth and Ialsehood in relation to poetry.
At times I diIIer Irom Pratt’s interpretations, particularly in my discussion oI Ialsehood in
Pindar where my argument relies on the premise that Pindar’s mythical narratives can
provide valuable insight into his conception oI praise poetry. Pratt, by contrast, does not
discuss the parallelism between praise poetry and mythical narrative.
My general approach to Pindar borrows Irom a number oI scholars including
Bundy, Race, and Kurke who diIIer greatly in many respects but share at least one
commonality: all seem to presume a connectivity or coherence oI thought and purpose in
Pindar’s poetry, which is maniIested through his imagery, ideas, rhetorical devices, and
language. This dissertation is premised on the consistency oI Pindaric thought, a
consistency that allows Ior explanation oI one diIIicult passage to be sought in another.
Bundy aims to demonstrate that Pindar’s many diIIuse elements can be explained as
matters oI generic convention. He thus argues that the stylistic and rhetorical Ieatures oI
Isthmian 1 and Olympian 11 are emblematic oI epinician’s generic patterns and provides
as evidence comparison to similar elements in other odes.
Kurke, on the other hand,
attempts to situate Pindar’s odes in their socio-historical context and reIers to her book
The TraIIic in Praise as a “sociological poetics.”
To that end she Iocuses on the images
and metaphors oI poetry as a social Iunction and draws on the work oI economic theorists
to argue that Pindar’s mixture oI metaphors reIlects the transition oI archaic Greece Irom
an “embedded economy” based on symbolic wealth (e.g., Iame or kleos) to a
“disembedded economy” that is currency-based and thereIore less intertwined with social
My dissertation is inIormed by her work to some extent, particularly her
observations about the poet-patron relationship and the language oI exchange that
characterizes it. This relationship is oIten construed as one oI Iriendship or guest-
Iriendship (cI. Pyth. 1.93, Ol. 1.103, Nem. 7.61) or likened to a marriage alliance (cI. Ol.
Where my project is both indebted to and diIIers Irom Kurke is in its Iocus on
aletheia as it relates to Pindaric xenia. Louise Pratt hints at a connection between aletheia
and poetic obligation when she asserts that praise, blame, and propriety are more central
to epinician poetry than truth and Ialsehood are, but I believe her observations can be
clariIied by close examination oI what truth and Ialsehood mean, and how these concepts
Bundy 1986, 4-7.
Kurke 1991, 10.
Kurke 1991, 166-167.
For Kurke’s discussion oI these passages, see Kurke 1991, 47, 86, 100, 118-122, 140.
help deIine the goals oI epinician poetry. To some degree I synthesize the work oI Kurke
and Pratt while providing a Iresh look at passages or aspects oI Pindar’s poetry that
neither scholar examines, particularly in my discussion oI Ialsehood and deception in
My approach to Aeschylus is similarly eclectic: the speciIic nature oI my topic
demands close examination oI certain passages key to discussions oI truth and Ialsehood,
but I have endeavored as well to consider each passage within the larger context oI the
play in which it appears. I have been inIluenced by a number oI scholars who run the
gamut between general studies oI Aeschylus (e.g., Gagarin 1976, Winnington-Ingram
1983) to specialized studies Iocusing on gender in tragedy (e.g., Goldhill 1984, Zeitlin
1996, Foley 2001). My interest in a gender-conscious approach grew both Irom my
observations about Pindar’s treatment oI women and deception (see Chapter Three) and
Irom a realization that Aeschylus oIten depicts sexual conIlicts or uses gender diIIerences
to represent the various conIlicts within his tragedies and that this gender dynamic aIIects
his presentation oI truth and Ialsehood as well.
My two major purposes are to clariIy what Pindar and Aeschylus mean when they
speak about truth and Ialsehood and to show how these meanings are maniIested in their
poetry. To those ends the next chapter examines terms Ior truth and Ialsehood in Pindar
and Aeschylus, Chapter Three discusses speciIic contexts Ior truth and Ialsehood in
Pindar, and Chapter Four provides a corresponding discussion Ior Aeschylus. The
contexts in which aletheia appears in Pindar demonstrate the speciIicity oI his genre, Ior
the meaning oI aletheia is colored by its association with ritualized relationships oI
obligation. I consequently examine Pindaric truth and obligation in Chapter Three,
arguing that the poet’s adherence to a “true” account stems Irom a notion that truth is
connected to the poet’s obligation to praise: the poet may claim to tell the truth by
suggesting that a truthIul account is one that depicts its subject in a Ilattering light. As I
hope to demonstrate, Pindar embraces both truth and praise simultaneously by deIining
truth as inextricably linked to his obligation to his patron. I then examine the relationship
oI Ialsehood and deception to Pindaric xenia. I hope to elucidate not only that Ialsehood
and deception are considered negative qualities—this should be obvious—but that Pindar
construes their negativity as stemming Irom their harm to the stability oI sacred social
institutions. Furthermore, gender Iigures into the relationship oI deception and Ialsehood
to xenia, Ior Pindar oIten associates the corruption oI social institutions with deception by
a Iemale character. He thus exploits a Iamiliar misogyny by incorporating it into his own
The Iourth chapter deals with truth and Ialsehood in Aeschylean tragedy, Ior
which, oI course, it is not as easy to determine the poet’s conception oI truth and
Ialsehood since tragedy, unlike epinician, lacks a Iirst-person voice that reIlects the
persona oI the poet. It is possible, however, to make conjectures based on examinations
oI the characters who claim to speak the truth and how such characters aIIect, and are
treated within, the overall tragedy. This chapter includes a discussion oI gender, which,
as in Pindar, plays a role in how Aeschylus presents issues oI truth and Ialsehood. Many
oI Aeschylus’ Iemale characters, Ior example Clytemnestra, Cassandra, the Chorus oI
Danaids, and the Chorus oI the Seven, must grapple with the problem oI not being
believed or heeded, despite telling the truth. Like Pindar, Aeschylus develops the motiI
oI Iemale deception, but he complicates this by putting true yet disbelieved statements
and judgments in the mouths oI his Iemale characters. Unlike Pindar, who incorporates
truth into a system oI xenia, perhaps even redeIining truth in the course oI doing so,
Aeschylus incorporates truth into the inevitability oI retributive violence, employing both
truth and Ialsehood as propagators oI retribution.
Throughout the dissertation I use the text oI Snell and Maehler’s Teubner edition
oI Pindar and Page’s OxIord Classical Text oI Aeschylus. Translations oI all Greek texts
are my own unless otherwise indicated.
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER T TT TWO WO WO WO: :: : T TT TERMS FOR ERMS FOR ERMS FOR ERMS FOR T TT TRUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND F FF FALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD
M MM METHODOLOGY ETHODOLOGY ETHODOLOGY ETHODOLOGY
In this chapter I will examine some key terms Ior truth and Ialsehood in
Aeschylus and Pindar. I begin with a general discussion oI deIinitions provided by LSJ
and various word-studies, then move outward to consider particular instances in
Aeschylus and Pindar in order to determine what context may tell us about the two poets’
applications oI terms Ior truth and Ialsehood.
The assumption underlying this method is
that any use oI a word is governed by an understanding oI its socially recognized
deIinition and that individual instances reIlect this deIinition by their adherence to,
variance Irom, or variation oI it. Accordingly, the deIinitions I mine Irom the lexica are a
starting point Ior what a word’s recognized, “normal” deIinition might be, and I compare
these deIinitions to individual examples in context. My assumptions are inIormed by
Saussure and, I suspect, other semiologists who posit a distinction between utterances
themselves and the underlying conventions that make such utterances possible and
comprehensible. Saussure articulates this diIIerence with the terms parole (“speech”) and
langue (“language”). At the level oI the individual word the relevant Saussurean
distinction would be that between value and meaning (signiIication), where “meaning”
reIers to a word’s simple deIinition, i.e., the object or concept that a word represents, and
“value” encompasses a word’s signiIication, but additionally reIers to the word’s Iunction
within the system oI language and can be understood only in comparison or opposition to
At some points I reIer to a word’s etymology, Ior which I rely on Chantraine.
In my study “meaning” corresponds to the deIinitions supplied by
Chantraine, LSJ, Italie, and Slater, while “value” corresponds to the designations
conveyed by their contexts. In a sense when I compare terms Ior truth and Ialsehood, I
am attempting to determine Pindaric and Aeschylean values Ior these terms, treating each
poet’s oeuvre as a system oI language, even though both poets, obviously, compose in
These distinctions may seem Iorced since it is impossible to understand a word
without recourse to an examination oI individual uses in context; the distinction between
meaning and value might thus be a moot point since meaning can never be Iully
determinable without recourse to context. Indeed, the deIinitions proposed in the lexica
oI LSJ, Italie, and Slater are derived Irom studies oI individual words in context. My use
oI various lexica as starting points, however, should not undermine my method, as lexical
deIinitions are themselves theories oI usage, and my examination oI particular words in
context tests those theories. In the absence oI absolutely extra-contextual deIinitions, I
turn to the lexica as reasonable starting points, and I have used Saussure to explain why I
take context into consideration. I begin with a summary oI LSJ’s various deIinitions and
the scholarship related to them beIore I devote a section each to Aeschylus and Pindar.
LSJ LSJ LSJ LSJ
I have Iocused on Iive key terms Ior truth and Ialsehood—uλqθεια,
cτυµος/cτqτυµος, uπuτη, δoλος, and ψεiδος—and supplement with etymological
inIormation where necessary.
u uu uλ λλ λq qq qθεια θεια θεια θεια
CI. Saussure 1983, 13-14, 112-114.
LSJ note that in Homer uλqθεια is used only in the sense oI “opposite to a lie,”
i.e., as an indication oI verbal veracity. Accordingly, uλqθεια and the neuter substantive
uληθcα appear primarily as direct objects oI verbs oI speaking.
Post-Homeric uses oI
uλqθεια indicate its opposition to mere appearance, hence designating something akin to
reality or on the personal level, a disposition towards truthIulness and sincerity. Its
adjectival Iorm reIlects a similar history and range and may necessitate a translation other
than simply “true,” depending on what it describes. For example, when applied to an
oracle uληθqς has two deIinitions cited by LSJ: “true, unerring” or “realizing itselI,
coming to IulIillment.” As an example oI the Iirst deIinition LSJ cites Pindar, Pythian
11.6 where Ismenion is called “the true seat oI seers” (uλαθcα µαντiων θeκον) Ior
providing prophecies that do not err. The second application oI uληθqς appears in
Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes 944, where, as I will discuss below, the key Iactor in
this second application oI uληθqς is time and whether the event predicted by the oracle
has occurred yet. Furthermore, the use oI uλqθεια/uληθqς with verbs oI speaking has
drawn attention Irom a number oI scholars,
including Krischer who argues that the
word inherently conveys the perspective oI the truth-teller.
The communis opinio regarding uληθqς is that it derives Irom an alpha-privative
oI λqθη, thus etymologically designating something devoid oI oblivion or concealment.
Scholars have made much hay over this apparent etymology, each attempting to identiIy
ever more precisely how it ultimately aIIects the use oI uληθqς. Heitsch has argued that
CI. Starr 1968, 349, Cole 1983, 9.
CI. Starr 1968, 349: “Homer employed |alethes| almost exclusively with verbs oI saying as an object to
connote precision and clarity.”
uλqθεια designates what is evident and not concealed,
while Detienne seems to Iocus
on the perspective oI the perceiver rather than what is perceived, as he promotes a near
equivalence between uλqθεια and memory.
Several other scholars have similarly tried
to identiIy the perspective oI the root λqθη: Snell argues that the root reIers to
IorgetIulness in the perceiver oI an object rather than to a quality oI concealment in the
while Cole Iurther qualiIies Snell’s observation by arguing that
uλqθεια involves or results “Irom a transmission oI inIormation that excludes lêthê,
whether in the Iorm oI IorgetIulness, Iailure to notice, or ignoring.”
Studies oI uλqθεια
have been so abundant that nearly every scholar who studies truth and Ialsehood in Greek
thought has been compelled to weigh in on the topic, however brieIly. Pratt has Iound
that the opposition between truth and Iorgetting, suggested by the etymology oI uλqθεια,
is only one oI many such oppositions: “Aletheia…excludes not only IorgetIulness but
also invention, Ialsehood, Iiction, intentional omission, insincerity, equivocation—
anything that might prevent the hearer’s perceiving accurately the subject matter under
discussion, anything that might interIere with the process oI communication.”
examinations oI uλqθεια in Aeschylus and Pindar have led me to conclude with Pratt that
whatever the correct interpretation oI the etymology, memory and oblivion are only
somewhat apparent in, and largely irrelevant to, the contextualized use oI uλqθεια;
uλqθεια must be understood in relation to its context and whatever comparisons or
oppositions context might reveal. What I attempt in this word study is thus an
Heitsch 1962. CI. Levet 1976, 17 who argues that aletheia/alethes denotes an absence oI concealment.
See Snell 1975, 17.
Cole 1983, 8.
Pratt 1993, 21.
examination, in Saussurean terms, oI the “value” oI uλqθεια, rather than its “meaning” or
c cc cτυµος/ τυµος/ τυµος/ τυµος/c cc cτ ττ τq qq qτυµος τυµος τυµος τυµος
DeIined by LSJ as “true,” cτυµος in its neuter singular Iorm comes to be used as a
substantive designating “the true sense oI a word according to its origin.” This use oI
cτυµον derives Irom the idea oI reality or authenticity inherent in cτυµος.
articulates the diIIerence between cτυµος and uληθqς as one that centers on the
perspective oI the speaker: while Homer uses uληθqς or uλqθεια to indicate “the type oI
truth which may be communicated by an individual on the basis oI his own
cτυµος does not contain this experiential aspect and more broadly reIers to
u uu uπ ππ πu uu uτη, δ τη, δ τη, δ τη, δo oo oλος λος λος λος
These terms can reIer either to a speciIic trick or act oI deception or can more
abstractly designate treachery, guile, craIt, or cunning. The verbal Iorms
uπατuω/cξαπατuω and δολoω correspondingly mean “to cheat, deceive” and “to
beguile;” the passive, however, oI uπατuω may remove the idea oI an exterior agent oI
deception and denote selI-deception or misapprehension instead.
ψε ψε ψε ψεi ii iδος δος δος δος
This noun has two English equivalents, “lie” or “Ialsehood,” as the degree oI
intention underlying the Ialsehood varies. The term ψεiδος has received much less
scholarly attention than uλqθεια, perhaps as a result oI its less remarkable etymology: it
may derive ultimately Irom a root meaning “blow,” which is used idiomatically to
Chantraine 1983-1984, s.v. “cτεoς.”
Kromer 1976, 425, summarizing the argument oI Krischer 1965.
designate a lie.
Although uλqθεια has more intriguing origins, the word ψεiδος is
comparatively complex and has a considerably broad range. Contextually, the word can
indicate a purposeIul deceit, as in Pythian 2 where the word is used oI the Hera-
apparition concocted by Zeus to deceive Ixion, or it can be used oI anything Ialse,
whether intentionally or unintentionally so. As Pratt notes, “The noun pseudos and the
related verbs and adjectives do not necessarily imply that the speaker deliberately seeks
to deceive the hearer; they denote only the objective Ialsity oI what is said.”
The corresponding verb ψεuδω, deIined by LSJ as “cheat by lies, beguile,”
conveys intention much more pointedly than the noun, at least in its active voice. Like
uπατuω, its passive Iorm can denote misperception on the part oI its subject, thus
Iocusing on the deceived rather than a separate deceiver who may or may not exist. The
older and more common middle Iorm ψεuδοµαι shows a range oI application similar to
the noun, denoting alternatively the actions oI lying, saying what is untrue (whether
intentionally or not), or deception. The middle Iorm, then, is Ilexible as to whether it
conveys intentional Ialsehood or not. Because oI its broad nature, ψεiδος and its
cognates Iunction as antonyms to several words Ior truth. The Iamous words oI Hesiod’s
Muses best exempliIy this Ilexibility oI ψεiδος: iδµεν ψεuδεα πολλu λcγειν cτuµοισιν
oµοiα, , iδµεν δ’, εiτ’ cθcλωµεν, uληθcα γηρuσασθαι (Theog. 27-28).
A AA AESCHYLUS ESCHYLUS ESCHYLUS ESCHYLUS
T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH
Chantraine 1999, s.v. “ψεuδοµαι” summarizes this hypothesis.
Pratt 1993, 56.
The words uληθqς and cτυµος and their variants overlap a great deal in Aeschylus
and are nearly synonymous. For both adjectives Italie’s primary deIinition is verus
(“true”), with uλqθεια corresponding to veritas (“truth”), and the contexts in which both
sets oI terms appear involve messages or statements that accurately convey reality, either
speciIic or general. The diIIerence between the two adjectives seems to lie primarily in
usage: uληθqς is largely used oI verbal messages,
while cτυµος describes accurate non-
verbal signals. By and large Aeschylean instances oI uλqθεια and its cognates and
compounds (e.g., uληθεuω, uληθoµαντις) consist oI reIerences to verbal statements, a
usage pattern that reIlects a variation oI Homeric usage and characterizes a direct verbal
interaction between two parties. When Clytemnestra speaks oI her qualities as a IaithIul,
loyal wiIe, she claims that her boasts are teeming with truth (τqς uληθεiας γcµων, 613),
although she is lying, oI course.
Similarly, the Herald describes his report to the Queen
in the Persians as uληθqς:
ταiτ’ cστ’ uληθq, πολλu δ’ cκλεiπω λcγων
κακeν u Πcρσαις cγκατcσκηψεν θεoς.
These things are true, but I omit many oI the woes a god has hurled
against the Persians. (Pers. 513-514)
This is not a hard and Iast distinction: Aeschylus applies the adjective uληθqς to the message oI the
beacon-Iires in the Agamemnon (491) and to accurately Ioreboding dreams in the Seven Against Thebes
(710), but only the second instance serves as a real exception; as I will discuss in Chapter Four, Ag. 491
applies uληθqς to the beacon-Iires only when their accuracy is to be conIirmed by the verbal report oI the
Goldhill 1984, 56 observes that this phrase τqς uληθεiας γcµων (“Iull oI the truth”) “implies the
possibility oI its opposite, that the language may have no truth content—as indeed in this case it has not.”
There is some debate about the speaker oI these lines, which belong to the herald in the
manuscripts. Most scholars, Iollowing Fraenkel, Hermann, and Wilamowitz, make Clytemnestra the
speaker oI these lines, but Thomson 1966 ad 613-616 argues Ior Iollowing the manuscripts. Given the
general scholarly acceptance that the manuscripts are wrong here and the play’s tendency to associate the
Iemale characters with incredibility, which I will discuss in Chapter Four, I am inclined to Iollow Fraenkel
The adjective uληθqς notably does not imply that the account is complete, as the Herald
himselI acknowledges, but only that none oI the words uttered by him is patently Ialse.
Describing events that have already occurred, the Herald applies uληθqς to statements
about the past. The adverb uληθeς adheres closely to its adjectival Iorm; the Chorus oI
the Agamemnon thus apply this adverb to their comprehension oI Cassandra’s prophecies
and use the term to conIirm the veracity oI what she has said (τqν µcν Θυcστου δαiτα
παιδεiων κρεeν , ξυνqκα καi πcφρικα, καi φoβος µ’ cχει , κλuοντ’ uληθeς οuδcν
cξpκασµcνα, “Thyestes’ Ieast upon his children’s Ilesh I understand and shudder at, and
Iear takes hold oI me as I hear it truly told and not in images,” Ag. 1242-1244).
Similarly, the term cτυµος/cτqτυµος denotes accuracy in reporting, but is more
likely than uληθqς to be applied to non-verbal representations oI what has happened. As
such, it characterizes interpersonal communication less oIten and reIlects an individual’s
understanding oI something rather than a communication between two people.
Chorus oI the Agamemnon wonder about the accuracy oI the beacon-Iires or the Chorus
oI the Seven Against Thebes interpret a dust-cloud as signaling an advance oI troops,
they use the terms cτqτυµος and cτυµος to speciIy the accuracy oI their respective signals
(εi δ’ cτqτυµος, , τiς οiδεν, q τι θεioν cστi πp ψuθος; “Who knows iI it is true or somehow
some godly lie?” Ag. 477-478; αiθερiα κoνις µε πεiθει φανεiσ’ , úναυδος σαφqς cτυµος
úγγελος, “A cloud oI dust on high appears and persuades me, a messenger clear and true,
though voiceless,” Sept. 81-82). Although Aeschylus departs Irom the Homeric Iormulae
Ior uληθqς, his application oI it to verbal statements and his contrasting use oI cτυµος Ior
nonverbal signals parallels the Homeric distinction between cτυµος and uληθqς that
Ior cτυµος reIers to messages that do not carry the subjectivity oI a
speciIic speaker so much as oI the interpreter oI the message.
There are some instances where uλqθεια, uληθqς, and cτυµος designate accurate
prophecies oI events that have not yet occurred. For the adjective uληθqς, Italie
distinguishes these instances under the separate deIinition ratus (“Iixed, settled”), but
does not create similar sub-headings Ior uλqθεια or cτυµος. When these words reIer to
Iuture events, they involve individual prescience or interpretation oI divine will. For
example, Clytemnestra conIirms that certain predictions are in line with uλqθεια:
Xo. óνειδος qκει τoδ’ uντ’ oνεiδους,
δuσµαχα δ’ cστi κρiναι.
φcρει φcροντ’, cκτiνει δ’ o καiνων·
µiµνει δc µiµνοντος cν θρoνç ∆ιoς
παθεiν τoν cρξαντα· θcσµιον γuρ.
τiς uν γονuν uραiον cκβuλοι δoµων;
κεκoλληται γcνος πρoς úτµ.
Κλ. cς τoνδ’ cνcβης ξuν uληθεiµ
χρησµoν. (Ag. 1560-1568)
Chorus: This reproach meets reproach, and it is diIIicult to judge.
Someone plunders the plunderer, and a murderer pays the price. It awaits
that the doer suIIer while Zeus abides on his throne, Ior it is the law. Who
would cast out the cursed stock Irom the home? The race is bound Iast to
Clytemnestra: You have come upon this prophecy with truth.
The Chorus’ prophecy is deemed ξuν uληθεiµ because oI what generally happens in such
cases. Although neither Clytemnestra nor the Chorus knows the speciIics oI what is to
occur, both acknowledge that the law oI Zeus dictates retributive events to come, and
Clytemnestra attaches the term uλqθεια to this law.
Both uληθqς and cτυµος can similarly be used to speciIy the accuracy oI
injunctions regarding the Iuture. This use oI uληθqς occur in the Seven Against Thebes
in reIerence to Oedipus’ curse on his sons:
κuρτα δ’ uληθq πατρoς Οiδιπoδα
πoτνι’ 1ρινuς cπcκρανεν. (Sept. 885-886)
The dread Fury oI Iather Oedipus brought exceedingly true things to
πικρoς λυτqρ νεικcων o πoντιος
ξεiνος cκ πυρoς συθεiς,
θηκτoς σiδαρος, πικρoς δ’ o χρηµuτων
κακoς δατητuς Aρης, uρuν πατρç -
αν τιθεiς uλαθq. (Sept. 941-946)
The stranger Irom over the sea is a bitter decider oI striIe, hastened by Iire,
Ares, a sharpened steel, bitter, evil distributor oI possessions, making their
Iather’s curse true.
The actions oI Eteocles and Polyneices demonstrate the prescience oI Oedipus’ curse on
his sons. In these lines the Chorus Irame their story as one that has essentially been
written by the previous generation. What has already been said is uληθqς even though
the statements precede the event.
An analogous use oI cτqτυµος appears in an inquiry posed to Cassandra by the
Chorus oI the Agamemnon: εi δ’ cτητuµως , µoρον τoν αíτqς οiσθα, πeς θεηλuτου ,
βοoς δiκην πρoς βωµoν εuτoλµως πατεiς; (“But iI truly you know your Iate, how do you
walk courageously toward the altar like a god-driven cow?” Ag. 1296-1298). The adverb
cτητuµως serves the emphatic Iunction oI English “really” or “truly”; in this context,
particularly with its syntactical proximity to µoρον, the Chorus’ question eIIectively
becomes, “II you know your Iate truly” or “II you know your true Iate.” In the special
case oI Cassandra, whose prophetic ability allows her clear sight oI events regardless oI
when they occur, cτητuµως now comes to qualiIy accurate knowledge oI the Iuture, as it
is applied here to a situation that has not yet played itselI out. Italie does not identiIy this
instance as a distinct application oI cτητuµος, but it is comparable to uληθqς-ratus, where
uληθqς reIers to the IulIillment or accomplishment oI a statement; what this example oI
cτητuµος does demonstrate is its similar applicability to events not yet unIolded.
Secondarily, terms Ior truth can underscore interior truthIulness, i.e., sincerity or
the tendency toward matching word with disposition and deed, but such uses are
relatively rare. Aeschylean uλqθεια in one instance does show the post-Homeric
application to sincerity or truthIulness, as Italie identiIies:
τiς δ’ cπιτuµβιον αiνον cπ’ uνδρi θεiç
σuν δακρuοις iuπτων
uληθεiµ φρενeν πονqσει; (Ag. 1548-1550)
Who will send Iorth with tears and, with the truth oI his mind, labor at
praise over the tomb Ior the godly man?
The Chorus utter these lines to Clytemnestra, speciIying uλqθεια as a quality desired in a
loyal eulogist oI Agamemnon. This instance thus diIIers Irom Clytemnestra’s earlier use
(613), where uλqθεια qualiIied a statement rather than a disposition. The diIIerence
between these two applications oI uλqθεια is comparable to an interior-exterior contrast:
while uλqθεια is predominantly used oI statements that accurately represent events
exterior to the speaker, this secondary use oI uλqθεια reIers to the inner disposition oI a
speaker and how this disposition aIIects the quality oI his words. Furthermore, the
contrast between the Chorus’ and Clytemnestra’s respective uses oI this word cannot be
denied: the Chorus’ use oI uλqθεια encompasses both accuracy and sincerity, while
Clytemnestra uses uλqθεια more narrowly to denote accuracy. OI course, in her case
neither her disposition nor her actions match her words, and she is neither accurate nor
sincere. She knows what a good wiIe ought to do and say in her circumstances, and she
consequently claims to act accordingly, attaching the term uλqθεια to these claims. The
Chorus’ desire Ior a eulogist with aletheia in his mind demonstrates their more expansive
understanding that merely saying what is suitable Ior the occasion is not suIIicient, but
must be accompanied by a similar disposition, a sentiment Iamiliar Irom epinician
The adverbial Iorm cτuµως can also denote sincerity, although slightly diIIerently
Irom uλqθεια. Italie cites two instances where cτuµως denotes sincerity (Sept. 919 and
Supp. 81), but I would argue that both these passages showcase the use oI cτuµως Ior
emphasis along the same lines as English “really” or “very,” and their conveyance oI
sincerity is more a Iunction oI the high emotional context than oI the word’s inherent
meaning. The Saussurean value oI a word is a helpIul tool here Ior understanding since it
is the relationship between cτuµως and its surrounding context that conveys sincerity.
When the Chorus oI the Seven Against Thebes report to Ismene and Antigone the deaths
oI their brothers, the language is riIe with emotionally charged terms and syntax:
γoος αuτoστονος αuτοπqµων,
δαϊoφρων, οu φιλογα-
θqς, cτuµως δακρυχcων
cκ φρενoς, u κλαιοµcνας µου µινuθει
τοiνδε δυοiν uνuκτοιν. (Sept. 916-921)
A heartrending lament sends them Iorth, Ior one’s own grieIs, Ior one’s
own woes, miserable, not mirthIul, truly shedding tears Irom the mind,
which diminishes as I weep Ior these two lords.
The adverb cτuµως, which I have translated “truly,”
reinIorces the tone oI sincerity oI
those lamenting through emphasis oI its surrounding context. The passage as a whole
stresses interiority (cκ φρενoς) and mournIulness with a series oI words Ior lament in
I will discuss Clytemnestra and uλqθεια in more detail in Chapter Four.
CI. Hutchinson 1985, ad 919, who provides “in truth.”
asyndeton and a chiastic ordering oI repeated roots (δαϊκτqρ ,…αuτoστονος αuτοπqµων, ,
Similarly, the other instance oI cτuµως-sincere appears in another emotionally
charged passage, this time Irom the Suppliants:
uλλu θεοi γενcται κλuετ’ εi τo δiκαιον iδoντες
¹qβµ µq τcλεον¹ δoντες cχειν παρ’ αiσαν,
úβριν δ’ cτuµως στυγοiντες
πcλοιτ’ uν cνδικοι γuµοις. (Supp. 79-82)
But ancestral gods, listen and behold justice well. Granting nothing
contrary to pronounced decree and truly hating insolence you would be
righteous to marriage.
In the Chorus oI Danaids’ appeal to the gods the adverb cτuµως emphasizes the emotive
excitement already present in the vivid language. This passage eIIects a similar tone with
its use oI imperatives and loaded words such as úβριν and στυγοiντες. In each passage
the adverb cτuµως connotes sincerity because it appears in and reinIorces such
Where Aeschylean cτυµος diIIers Irom uλqθεια/uληθqς is in its much broader
range oI uses. Italie speciIies verus, sincere, and recte as possible applications oI
cτυµος/cτqτυµος and their adverbs. In addition to veracity and sincerity the word may
designate accuracy in the sense oI suitability, appropriateness, or aptness. When Athena
promises to select a jury Ior Orestes’ trial in the Eumenides and to pronounce the best
verdict possible, she characterizes her intent to do so as cτητuµως: κρiνασα δ’ uστeν τeν
cµeν τu βcλτατα , qξω διαιρεiν τοiτο πρuγµ’ cτητuµως (“AIter choosing the best oI my
citizens, I will come to judge this aIIair correctly,” Eum. 487-488). Italie rightly deIines
this instance oI cτητuµως as recte rather than vere, Ior Athena does not mean to make a
Iactually accurate judgment so much as one that is Iair and just.
The adjective cτυµος can designate proper lineages oI abstract concepts.
Likewise, when the Chorus oI the Eumenides exclaim, “How truly is Hubris the child oI
Impiety” (δυσσεβiας µcν úβρις τcκος eς cτuµως, 534), it does not assert Hubris’ descent
Irom Impiety as a matter oI scientiIic, historical, or theological Iact;
rather, the Chorus
convey the close association between δυσσεβiα and úβρις and the natural tendency to
think oI these two concepts as interconnected. Likewise, the choral ode to Justice
Iollowing Orestes’ and Clytemnestra’s last exchange oI the Choephoroi incorporates the
term cτqτυµος in its discussion oI Justice’s pedigree:
cµολε δ’ µ µcλει κρυπταδiου µuχας
cθιγε δ’ cν µuχµ χερoς cτqτυµος
∆ιoς κoρα, ∆iκαν δc νιν
βροτοi τυχoντες καλeς,
oλcθριον πνcουσ’ cν cχθροiς κoτον. (946-952)
The craIty goddess oI Vengeance has come, who concerns herselI with the
secret battle, and the true daughter oI Zeus took hold oI her hand in battle.
Justice is what we mortals call her, hitting the mark well, since she
breathes deadly rancor on her enemies.
The Chorus etymologize Justice’s name ∆iκα Irom ∆ιoς κoρα, although there is some
debate as to whether cτqτυµος actually reIers to an etymology or simply describes the
aptness oI Justice’s descent Irom Zeus as the accomplisher oI his work.
In either case
cτqτυµος designates accuracy in the sense oI appropriateness, whether oI Dike’s name or
Pace Sommerstein 1989, ad 533-7 who translates eς cτuµως “in reality,” contending that Aeschylus
means to correct traditional proverbial thought, which posits κoρος as the mother oI úβρις. Given the
Ilexibility oI parentage Ior abstract concepts, I Iind it improbable that Aeschylus would reIerence and
rectiIy a hard and Iast Iamily tree Ior hubris.
See Garvie 1986 ad 948-51 Ior a discussion oI these lines and Ior relevant bibliography.
According to Headlam 1891, 152, cτqτυµος “is Irequently used in later Greek in connexion with
descent.” Cited in Garvie 1986 ad 948-951.
In Aeschylus we can see the precursor to the later use oI τo cτυµον as
“etymology,” Ior the adjective designates appropriateness in naming.
In the Iamous
choral ode about Helen in the Agamemnon, the Chorus etymologize, albeit Ialsely as in
the case oI Dike in the Choephoroi, the name Helen as originating Irom a root meaning
“to kill.” The use oI cτυµος again designates accuracy in the sense oI aptness rather than
historical or linguistic Iact, as Italie notes by deIining this instance as recte rather than
τiς ποτ’ eνoµαζεν eδ’
cς τo πuν cτqτυµως,
µq τις óντιν’ οuχ oρeµεν προνοi-
αισι τοi πεπρωµcνου
γλeσσαν cν τuχµ νcµων,
τuν δορiγαµβρον uµφινει –
κq θ’ 1λcναν; (681-686)
Who ever so truly named this bride oI battles, wooed all round, Helen?
Someone unseen with knowledge oI the Ioreordained successIully using
The Chorus proceed to provide an etymology oI Helen’s name as a derivation Irom a root
cλε- meaning “kill” and list a string oI words with similar roots (cλcνας, cλανδρος,
cλcπτολις, 689-690). The etymology provided here is appropriate Ior the context, Ior the
meaning oI Helen’s name, whether real or imagined, matches the destruction she
F FF FALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD
The range oI ψεiδος and its various Iorms is large, although Italie provides
simply Ialsus Ior the adjective ψευδqς and Ialsa loqui, vates Ialsa, and Ialso nominatus
Ior the compounds ψευδηγορcω, ψευδoµαντις, and ψευδeνυµος, respectively. Italie is
There is one instance where uληθeς is used instead to designate an apt name: 1παφος, uληθeς pυσiων
cπeνυµος (“Epaphos, truly named aIter deliverances,” Supp. 312).
The importance oI etymology and naming is a recurrent theme in the Oresteia; see Goldhill 1986, 19-21.
more precise with the verb ψεuδω, designating deception (Iallere) in the active and either
deception or lying (Iallere, mentiri) in the middle. While Aeschylus uses two distinct
words Ior “true,” uληθqς and cτυµος, the single root ψευδ- designates the opposite oI all
their applications. The word ψεiδος thus encompasses a much broader range than either
uληθqς or cτυµος. Moreover, through its compounds ψεiδος conveys a wider variety oI
applications than uληθqς or cτυµος, the latter oI which does not appear in compounds at
As opposites to spoken truth uncompounded ψευδ-Iorms appear only three times
in the extant Aeschylus plays, each time as the adjective ψευδqς, and each time
describing untrue speech,
whether concerning past occurrences or Iuture events. Two
oI those instances appear in close proximity to one another and are spoken by the herald
oI the Agamemnon attesting to the veracity oI his report (Ag. 620, 625). These two lines
are the only applications oI the adjective ψευδqς to reports that inaccurately represent
what has already happened. The other instance oI ψευδqς describes speech concerning
Iuture events. When Io appeals to Prometheus to tell her truthIully what lies in store Ior
her, she requests that he not deliver Ialse stories out oI pity Ior her (µuθοις ψευδcσιν, PV
685), i.e., stories oI events that will not happen. The dual application oI uληθqς, cτυµος,
and ψευδqς to reports about either past or Iuture events is a Iunction oI the Greek
conception oI prophecy as knowledge oI past, present, and Iuture, as Calchas claims in
Iliad 1 (oς pδη τu τ’coντα τu τ’ cσσoµενα πρo τ’ coντα, 70). When Cassandra accurately
reports the past ills oI the house oI Atreus, she challenges the Chorus to deem her a
The noun pseudos does not appear at all in Aeschylus.
ψευδoµαντις (Ag. 1195), yet she can use its opposite, uληθoµαντις, to reIer to her
prediction oI Iuture events (Ag. 1241).
Accordingly, pseudos in this application to prophecy appears in connection with
what Zeus speaks or wills: ψευδηγορεiν γuρ οuκ cπiσταται στoµα , τo ∆iον, uλλu πuν
cπος τελεi (“For the mouth oI Zeus does not know how to speak Ialsely, but accomplishes
every word,” Pr. 1032-1033). As Hermes warns Prometheus about his ill-Iated Iuture, he
gives voice to the predominant assumption that Prometheus aims to derail the
overarching power oI Zeus. This short line reveals that Ior Zeus, ψεiδος would not
simply be a lie as opposed to the truth, but rather the inability to eIIect a Iuture
occurrence. The line introduces Zeus’ relationship to truth and Ialsehood, Ior Hermes
equates Zeus’ will with the Iormation oI events. For Zeus to speak Ialsely (ψευδηγορεiν)
would entail the ineIIectuality oI his will; ψευδηγορεiν is thus something outside the
domain oI Zeus Teleios.
Compounds oI ψεiδος are also used to negate etumos in its application to naming.
Aeschylus uses the adjective ψευδeνυµος three times to describe names that either do or
would ill Iit their bearers:
q δqτ’ uν εiη πανδiκως ψευδeνυµος
∆iκη, ξυνοiσα φωτi παντoλµç φρcνας. (Sept. 670-671)
Indeed, Justice would be Ialsely named, iI she were linked with a man
audacious in his mind.
qξεις δ’ `βριστqν ποταµoν οu ψευδeνυµον. (PV 717)
I am compelled here to discuss brieIly the authorship oI the Prometheus Bound. OI course, the whole
scholarly community in Classics is well aware oI the basics oI this controversy, each Classicist taking a
stance, or reIusing to, as appropriate Ior her aims. For now, I belong to the latter category, as my word
examination has revealed nothing unusual about terms Ior truth and Ialsehood in Prometheus as compared
to the other Aeschylean plays, and a discussion oI its authorship would be irrelevant to my particular study.
For a Iuller discussion, see GriIIith 1977, who himselI is skeptical about Aeschylean authorship oI this
GriIIith 1983 ad 1032-3. CI. Suppliants 524-526 and Agamemnon 973.
You will have come to Insolence, a river not Ialsely named.
ψευδωνuµως σε δαiµονες Προµηθcα
καλοiσιν· αuτoν γuρ σε δεi προµηθiας,
óτç τρoπç τqσδ’ cκκυλισθqσp τcχνης. (PV 85-87)
The gods name you Prometheus Ialsely; Ior you yourselI are in need oI
Iorethought as to how you’ll be extricated Irom this trap.
In each oI these cases ψευδeνυµος marks a name that belies the actions or character oI its
bearer. Hutchinson’s explanation Ior Sept. 670, “óνοµα and cργον should naturally be
one, particularly with a personiIied abstraction,”
could double as a deIinition oI a name
that is cτυµος, which when applied to naming posits a relationship oI equivalence
between word and deed.
A person’s very actions could prove his name Ialse, regardless
oI his inclination toward either truth or Ialsehood.
As Ior the verb ψεuδω, Italie divides Aeschylean uses into two categories, those
that designate deception and those that reIer to lying. What is striking about this verb is
the varying degree to which it indicates intention on the part oI the instigator oI the
ψεiδος. In three oI the Iour instances intention is ascribed to a speaker or agent (Pers.
472, Eum. 615, Ag. 1208). By contrast, the nurse in the Choephoroi compares the knack
Ior intuiting a young child’s needs to prophecy and reIers to her errors in judgment as
deception, but declines to name any agent: τοuτων πρoµαντις οiσα, πολλu δ’ οiοµαι ,
ψευσθεiσα (“Being a prophetess oI these things, I suppose I was deceived oIten,” Cho.
758-759). In the passive ψεuδω naturally emphasizes the perceiver oI the pseudos rather
than the agent, yet here there is not even an implied agent other than, perhaps, Loxias, iI
Hutchinson 1985 ad 670.
CI. GriIIith 1983 ad Pr. 85-6: “Such play on proper names…is common in Greek poetry…It stems Irom
the widespread popular belieI that things, or people, and their names are linked by more than accident or
convention: the name reIlects their true nature.”
we are to entertain the metaphor oI prophecy to that extent. Instead, the nurse is the
source Ior her own experience oI ψεiδος, which reIers to her conIusion and error in
intuition, and indeed, the passive oI ψεuδω is used in such a way as to imply that the one
who errs is the agent oI her own deception.
Furthermore, even when there is a supposed actor behind a pseudos, this actor is
unspeciIied, as in the Persians where Atossa’s exclamatory wails bemoan the deIeat oI
Xerxes’ troops: (e στυγνc δαiµον, eς úρ’ cψευσας φρενeν , Πcρσας (“O hateIul god,
how you deceived the minds oI the Persians!” Pers. 472-473). While superIicially Atossa
attributes the Persian deIeat to a god’s deception, her lament primarily concerns the
Persians’ miscalculated decision to engage the Athenians. Moreover, in Aeschylus and
elsewhere the ascription oI unIortunate or inexplicable events to an unnamed deity
not expropriate all causality and responsibility Irom mortals to the gods. Rather, such
exclamations reIlect double determination or motivation whereby both gods and mortals
equally cause what happens.
The point is that the use oI the verb ψεuδω here points up
the misapprehension oI the perceiver more than misdirection by any deceiver.
As Ior ψεiδος and its compounds as a whole, the idea oI intention may be explicit
or implied in many oI its uses, but the Iocus is on the perception oI the ψεiδος as a
deception or Ialsehood regardless oI its intent. The uses oI ψευδ-words tend to indicate
Iocalization through the perceiver rather than through the agent, whether or not an
explicit agent is present. The term ψεiδος thus introduces a diIIerent angle in the study
oI truth and Ialsehood, namely the perspective Irom which something is deemed true or
CI. Pers. 158 and Hall 1986, ad loc. This is a recurrent theme in the Persians, Ior Darius’ ghost repeats
this sentiment at Pers. 743.
For a lucid explanation oI double motivation in Homer and in Aeschylus, see Gagarin 1976, esp. 17-18
Ialse. Krischer articulated this aspect oI perspective with his comparison oI uληθqς and
cτυµος, but parallel studies have not been done Ior the various words Ior Ialsehood and
Unlike ψεiδος, the other main words Ior deception in Aeschylus, uπuτη and
δoλος, consistently indicate intentional deception. The term uπuτη appears only three
times in the extant plays (Supp. 110, Pers. 93, Eum. 728), each time reIlecting calculated
guile. The word δoλος appears much more oIten, and in Iact surpasses all other words
Ior Ialsehood or deception in its Irequency in Aeschylus. Despite this Irequency my
discussion oI δoλος will be brieI, Ior this term in Aeschylus shows the least variation oI
the deception words, as it very consistently reIers to a speciIic trick or to guile in general
and always connotes intention on the part oI its agent. Furthermore, the Iocalization oI
this term is very even between deceiver and deceived, reIlecting both guileIul intent as
well as the perception oI guile. The one possible exception is at Ag. 273 where
Clytemnestra reIers to her possibly excessive credulousness oI the beacon-Iires as the
deception oI Hephaestus, the god oI Iire (cστιν, τi δ’ οuχi; µq δολeσαντος θεοi).
statement resembles Atossa’s exclamation at Pers. 472 and may similarly couple a god’s
deception with a potential error oI the perceiver, but in Clytemnestra’s case the physical
maniIestation oI a beacon-Iire puts the blame squarely on someone other than herselI iI
the Iire’s report turns out to be inaccurate.
C CC CONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS
My discussion thus Iar has meant to illuminate the wide range oI applicability oI
terms Ior truth and Ialsehood, a range that the lexica cannot Iully reveal. A simple
equation between “true” and uληθqς or cτυµος does not identiIy the largely interpersonal,
Hephaestus is explicitly named at 281.
communicative nature oI uληθqς nor the Iunction oI cτυµος as a marker oI suitability or
appropriateness. Lexical deIinitions also do not show how relative time aIIects the
various applications oI uλqθεια, uληθqς, and cτυµος and the role oI time in revealing
truth. Aside Irom the usual hints oI veracity or accuracy, truth and Ialsehood words
touch on ideas oI prophecy, suitability, and sincerity, although the latter is much less
prevalent than in English. The wide range oI applications maniIests itselI in various
ways: Ior cτυµος, the word’s various contexts showcase its diIIerent applications,
whereas uληθqς and ψευδqς broaden their range oI applications through appearance in
compounds. Furthermore, ψεiδος is most likely to obscure any agency behind it,
transIerring the Iocus instead to the perceiver. The privileging oI experience over agent
is particularly appropriate Ior tragedy, in which Iorces larger than individual actions or
agency are the Iocus, although certainly this sense oI ψεiδος is not exclusive to tragedy.
In Chapter Four I will argue that Aeschylus employs these various applications oI truth
and Ialsehood to reinIorce the major themes oI his tragedy, primarily the theme oI
reciprocal or retributive violence. While truth-telling is valued by individual characters,
the presiding Iorce over the tragedies is the perpetuating cycle oI retribution. Truth and
Ialsehood thus reinIorce this cycle so that characters may suIIer no direct or immediate
consequences Ior individual acts oI deception or truthIulness, but are instead subject to
experiences in accordance with what the plot oI retribution demands.
P PP PINDAR INDAR INDAR INDAR
T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH
On the whole Pindar uses uλqθεια/uληθqς and cτυµος much more narrowly than
Aeschylus. The main word Ior truth in Pindar, uλqθεια (Doric uλuθεια), Slater deIines
simply as “truth,” without Iurther elaboration than to note its various instances in Pindar
and its personiIication in Olympian 10 and Fragment 205. Komornicka has written
several detailed studies oI terms Ior truth and Ialsehood in Pindar, which list the various
terms designating truth and Ialsehood and elucidate the range oI applications Ior these
Race provides the most lucid starting point Ior a discussion oI truth in Pindar
with his brieI yet precise statement, apropos oI the invocation to Olympia as a mistress oI
truth in Olympian 8 (Οuλυµπiα, , δcσποιν’ uλαθεiας, 2-3), that “this uλuθεια denotes
‘how something actually turns out to be,’ a sense it always has in Pindar.”
I agree with Race, and add that this sense oI uλqθεια, however obvious it may
seem, reIlects a marked departure Irom Homer and Aeschylus. A key diIIerence between
Pindaric and Homeric or Aeschylean uλqθεια is the manner in which Pindar articulates
the relationship between uλqθεια and verbal statements. As I have noted, Homer uses
uλqθεια and the substantive neuter plural uληθcα interchangeably as objects oI verbs oI
speaking, thus applying these terms to the accuracy oI an utterance, while Aeschylus
likewise retains the close connection between uλqθεια and what is said (e.g., Ag. 613,
Ag. 1567), thus emphasizing verbal accuracy as the deIining Ieature oI uλqθεια.
Pindar preserves this connection between uλqθεια (“how something actually turns
out to be”) and statements reIlecting it, but makes clear that the two are distinct:
τελεuταθεν δc λoγων κορυφαi
cν uλαθεiµ πετοiσαι. (Ol. 7.61-69)
The chieI points oI the words Iell in with truth and were brought to
νiν δ` cφiητι ·τo~ τeργεiου φυλuξαι
Komornicka 1972, 1979, and 1981.
Race 1990, 144. CI. Adkins 1972, who argues in part that Homeric aletheia is not very diIIerent Irom a
modern conception oI truth.
pqµ` uλαθεiας · ˘ – ~ úγχιστα βαiνον,
“χρqµατα, χρqµατ` uνqρ” oς φu κτεuνων θ` úµα λειφθεiς καi φiλων. (Isth.
And now she bids us to guard the Argive’s saying which comes closest to
truth: “Money, money is man,” says he who is bereIt oI both possessions
While the contextual diIIerences between the two passages are many—the Iirst reIers to a
speciIic event, Rhodes’ emergence Irom the sea, while the second reIers to a saying that
describes the general tendency oI human nature—Pindar’s phrasing in both passages is
strikingly similar in that each passage uses uλqθεια to reIer directly to “what happens”
without speaking oI verbal communication as an intermediary step between an event and
its perception. By using uλqθεια thus, Pindar proposes the existence oI an objective
reality that is antecedent to the words describing or relaying that reality.
Pindar also, unlike Homer and Aeschylus, uses uλqθεια to convey reality itselI.
In such passages as Pythian 3.103 and Nemean 7.25 Pindar does not explicitly articulate a
verbal aspect oI uλqθεια, instead using the term to represent directly “what happens” or
“reality.” By doing so, he asserts his superior knowledge oI what actually happens, either
speciIically or generally, and subtly removes any question oI subjectivity. Furthermore,
he suggests that not all that appears to be uλqθεια can be assumed to be true:
ó τ’ cξελcγχων µoνος
Χρoνος. τo δc σαφανcς ieν πoρσω κατcφρασεν… (Ol. 10.53-55)
Time alone puts genuine truth to the test. As it progressed Iurther, it
openly declared what was clear…
The passage reIers to the Iirst Olympic Iestival as established by Herakles, whose actions
are detailed in the lines immediately Iollowing. The application oI cτυµος to uλqθεια
Because oI the circumscribed nature oI this project, I unIortunately do not discuss the monetary language
that pervades this ode, which is key to understanding it as a whole. See Kurke 1991, 240-256, Nisetich
1977, and Woodbury 1968.
can, with Krischer’s help, be understood as Pindar’s attempt to emphasize that Ior him,
truth extends beyond the perspective oI its speaker and reIlects objective reality. As I
summarized above, Krischer convincingly identiIies the distinction between uληθqς and
cτυµος as one oI perspective: the perspective oI the speaker inheres in uληθqς but not in
cτυµος. By describing uλqθεια as cτqτυµος and by using it to reIer not to an accurate
verbal account oI an event, but rather to the event itselI, Pindar doubly removes the
subjectivity oI a speaker in Iavor oI the objective reality oI the occurrence.
I do not mean to say, however, that Pindar completely dismisses verbal accuracy
as an important application oI uλqθεια. Three oI the Iive instances oI uληθqς
mean “true” in the sense oI accurate reporting. When Pindar does combine uλqθεια with
verbal maniIestations oI it, he oIten sheds light on his conception oI epinician poetry as a
genre and thus encompasses verbal and dispositional truth (accuracy and sincerity).
Slater’s simple deIinition “true” cannot convey the genre-oriented sense oI Pindar’s truth-
telling, which implicates uλqθεια in the poet’s relationship to his patron by incorporating
uλqθεια/uληθqς in a system oI reciprocal give and take, emblematized in principles oI
xenia, philia, and charis. The relationship Pindar constructs with his patron, as many
have noted, is one oI Iriendship, devotion, loyalty, and obligation.
adjective uληθqς describes both statements (or metaphors Ior statements) and speakers’
dispositions, thus meaning both “true” and “truthIul.” Pindar applies the adjective once
to the herald’s shout as a “true witness” (uλαθqς τc µοι , cξορκος cπcσσεται cξηκοντuκι
Slater lists a dubious sixth instance oI alethes in Fr. 30.6, where Boeckh conjectures a reading oI uλαθcας
Oρας based on a Iragment oI Hesychius; an alternate reading posits uγαθu σωτqρας. Even iI Boeckh’s
reading is correct, the Iragmentary nature oI this passage prohibits its inclusion in a consideration oI
uληθqς in Pindar.
CI. Bowra 1964, 387-388. In using the name “Pindar,” I reIer, oI course, to the persona oI the epinician
poet presented in the odes, and not to the historical author. See LeIkowitz 1991 Ior a comprehensive
discussion oI this persona.
δq uµφοτcρωθεν , uδuγλωσσος βοu κuρυκος cσλοi, “the sweet-tongued shout oI the
good herald, indeed heard sixty times Irom both places, as a true witness under oath will
lend weight to me,”
Ol. 13.98-100), which demonstrates the Iirst application oI uληθqς
to the accuracy oI a report. By contrast, when Pindar describes his mind as uληθqς
(uλαθεi νoç, Ol. 2.92), he applies uληθqς to his disposition rather than to his report.
These two applications need not be mutually exclusive, Ior uληθqς tends to be used in
quite personal contexts where Pindar claims to speak the truth, a usage pattern necessarily
implies his disposition towards true reportage. When Pindar expresses his hope in that
his “true words” will aid his evasion oI Boeotian stereotype (uρχαiον óνειδος uλαθcσιν ,
λoγοις εi φεuγοµεν, Βοιωτiαν iν, Ol. 6.89-90), he thus claims both that his words are true
and, implicitly, that he as the one uttering those words is truthIul.
The term uληθqς, then, as Pindar uses it contains within it a sense oI accuracy as
well as sincerity. By “sincerity” I mean the poet’s selI-conscious commitment to praising
his laudandus in a way both loyal and accurate. Part oI Pindar’s credibility as a praise
poet rests on conveying authenticity: his praise appears accurate iI it comes Irom a
willing source. The traditional approach to Pindar-patron relations has been to
understand either implicitly or explicitly that Pindar’s priorities lie in praising his
As Pratt notes, Pindar and Bacchylides are concerned with truth only insoIar as
it aIIects the apportionment oI praise.
I would qualiIy Pratt’s assertion to argue that
Pindar’s primary encomiastic purpose is reIlected in his incorporation oI uλqθεια into the
Following Slater 1969; alternatively, “vouches Ior” (Nisetich 1980) or “my true witness under oath shall
be the noble herald’s…” (Race 1997).
CI. Bundy 1962, 3: “There is no passage in Pindar and Bakkhulides that is not in its primary intent
encomiastic—that is, designed to enhance the glory oI a particular patron.”
Pratt 1993, 115.
epinician genre, so that he may express an equal level oI commitment to both praise and
For example, the beginning oI Olympian 8 reIlects truth that both broadly means
“what happens” as well as speciIically points to an occasion suitable Ior Pindar’s poetry:
Μuτερ e χρυσοστεφuνων ucθλων, Οuλυµπiα,
δcσποιν’ uλαθεiας, îνα µuντιες úνδρες
cµπuροις τεκµαιρoµενοι παραπειρeνται ∆ιoς uργικεραuνου,
εi τιν’ cχει λoγον uνθρeπων πcρι
uρετuν θυµ( λαβεiν,
τeν δc µoχθων uµπνοuν·
úνεται δc πρoς χuριν εuσεβiας uνδρeν λιταiς. (Ο. 8.1-8)
O mother oI the golden-crowned games, Olympia, mistress oI truth, where
men who are seers examine burnt oIIerings and test Zeus oI the bright
thunderbolt, to see iI he has any word concerning mortals who are striving
in their hearts to gain a great success and respite Irom their toils; but men’s
prayers are IulIilled in return Ior piety.
The truth that seers seek at Olympia involves the outcome oI athletic contests, which will
be determined by Zeus.
By identiIying Olympia as a place oI truth and qualiIying this
truth to be speciIically concerned with athletic ability, the poet contextualizes uλqθεια
and explains its relevance to his poetry. He introduces his subject matter, the Olympic
victory oI his laudandus, as a matter oI truth, thus aligning the story oI the laudandus with
truth and communicating his devotion to this truth simultaneously. This passage
demonstrates how Pindaric uλqθεια can be both objective and subjective, Ior the term
here primarily designates reality, but is also colored by its speciIic context oI athletic
competition, which points to Pindar’s role as a poet oI praise. These generic
considerations can help shed light on Pindar’s more unusual uses oI uλqθεια, particularly
in its personiIied Iorms in Olympian 10 and Fragment 205, which I will discuss in the
CI. Komornicka 1972, 238 and Slater1969, s.v. “δcσποινα,” who posit that Olympia’s epithet stems Irom
the Iunction oI Olympic games as the true prooI oI athletic ability.
next chapter. Just what Pindar means when he appeals to Truth can be understood when
we take into consideration how much generic awareness inIorms his use oI terms Ior truth
F FF FALSEHOOD AND ALSEHOOD AND ALSEHOOD AND ALSEHOOD AND D DD DECEPTION ECEPTION ECEPTION ECEPTION
Words Ior Ialsehood and deception in Pindar include ψεiδος, uπuτα, and δoλος,
along with their corresponding compounds and verbal Iorms. Slater deIines ψεiδος as
“lie, Ialsehood,” presumably providing these two deIinitions to indicate varying degrees
oI intention inherent in the word. The term ψεiδος has a narrower range than in
Aeschylus and is largely used oI intentional Ialsehood, particularly when the poet denies
that he is lying,
but the term, as in Aeschylus, is also used in instances where Ialsehood
is not intentional and indeed, in several cases where no agent oI ψεiδος is even
mentioned, as the Iocus is on the perceiver or receiver oI the ψεiδος rather than on any
speaker or agent.
This is particularly so in cases where ψεiδος is used in a non-verbal sense. In
Fragment 124 and Olympian 12 Pindar uses a Iorm oI ψεiδος to reIer to some
misunderstanding on the part oI the perceiver rather than an intention to deceive on the
part oI the agent oI the ψεiδος. In neither case is any agent named, the Iocus being on
the Iailure oI the perceiver to comprehend something correctly:
αî γε µcν uνδρeν
πoλλ’ úνω, τu δ’ αi κuτω ψεuδη µεταµeνια τuµνοισαι κυλiνδοντ’
cλπiδες. (Ol. 12.5-6)
And the hopes oI men oIten roll up, and then roll back again as they cleave
πελuγει δ’ cν πολυχρuσοιο πλοuτου
E.g., see Ol. 4.17, Nem. 1.18.
See Crotty 1982, 9 Ior a discussion oI the antithetical pairs that permeate the opening oI Olympian 12.
πuντες iσµ νcοµεν ψευδq πρoς uκτuν. (Fr. 124ab.6-7)
And we all alike sail on the sea oI gold-rich wealth toward an unreal
In Olympian 12 Pindar uses ψεuδη to reIer to hopes that prove to be unIulIilled, while in
Fragment 124 Pindar reIers to the eIIects oI alcohol brought on by Dionysus, which
induce blissIul delusions. The word ψεiδος in these cases thus designates something
more along the lines oI “delusion” or “misapprehension” than “lie.”
When Pindar reIers to verbal ψεiδος, however, intention comes to the Iore, but
his criticism is not unwaveringly decisive. This is because some cases oI verbal ψεiδος
reIlect misdirection rather than outright lying and thus make the assignment oI blame less
clear, Ior such misdirection can occur even without any patent Ialsehood. As Bernard
Williams observes, patently true statements still have the potential to deceive by
producing a disposition in the hearer that would lend itselI to misapprehension. Williams
illustrates this point with the example oI a person going through another’s mail, then
claiming, “someone has been opening your mail.” Such a statement is not a lie, Ior it
does not convey patently Ialse inIormation, but it does mislead the listener into believing
that the culprit is someone other than the speaker.
Williams’ discussion calls attention
to the unsavory tendency Ior a successIul deception to elicit a certain receptiveness to
being duped and thus to violate a tacit agreement oI trust between speaker and listener.
It is in this light that I view Pindar’s criticism oI Homer:
cγe δc πλcον’ cλποµαι
λoγον Oδυσσcος q πuθαν διu τoν uδυεπq γενcσθ’ Oµηρον·
cπεi ψεuδεσi οi ποτανµ ·τε~ µαχανµ
σεµνoν cπεστi τι· σοφiα δc κλcπτει παρuγοισα µuθοις. (Nem. 7.20-23)
Williams 2002, 96.
I expect that Odysseus’ story has become greater than his experience on account
oI sweet-talking Homer, since something holy lies upon his lies and his soaring
resourceIulness. Skill deceives, misleading with stories.
Pindar praises Homer’s skill as a poet, but points out that the aesthetic quality oI his
poetry distracts the audience Irom the truth. The language suggests misdirection rather
than actual lying (κλcπτει, παρuγοισα), and the appearance oI ψεiδος in this context
reinIorces a notion oI misapprehension rather than deception. Similarly, the Iamous
passage Irom Olympian 1 that introduces Pindar’s rendition oI the Pelops myth presents
the presence oI ψεiδος in accounts oI the myth as the result oI elaborate embellishment:
q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι. (Ol. 1.28-9)
Indeed, there are many wonders, and somehow the speeches oI mortals,
stories, have been embellished beyond the true account and deceive with
Pindar’s later characterization oI his own poetic activity as embellishment
(δαιδαλωσcµεν, 105) makes clear that embellished poetry itselI does not lie. Rather,
Pindar points out the potential Ior embellishment to produce a misperception,
subsequently attributes this misperception to the power oI Charis,
which can make
incredible things believable. I would argue that this statement is as much a general
explanation about human credulity as it is a criticism oI deceptive poetry. Like the non-
verbal instances oI ψεiδος, these statements about poetry and ψεiδος Iocalize at least
partly through the perceiver. Pindar reIers to the use oI language that the audience
I should note that Pindar attributes the Ialse Pelops myth to two distinct parties: here he Iaults his poetic
predecessors Ior embellishment to the point oI Ialsehood, which I argue is not necessarily intentional; later,
however, Pindar does charge intentional Ialsehood, but this time on the part oI Pelops’ envious neighbors
I will discuss these passages at greater length in the next chapter.
In contrast with Aeschylus Pindar’s other words Ior deception show varying
degrees oI agency and intention.
In addition to the Olympian 1 passage above, the one
instance oI the verb uπατuω appears as a passive Iorm that Slater deIines as “be
mistaken,” Ior it reIers to a misapprehension rather than an intentional act oI deception:
e πoποι, οi’ uπατuται φροντiς cπαµερiων οuκ iδυiα (“Alas, how the mind oI those who
live day by day is deceived when it does not know,” Fr. 182). Likewise, three times does
a Iorm oI δoλος reIlect the error oI the person deceived rather than an action taken by a
deceptive agent (Isth. 8.14, Pyth. 1.92, Pyth. 4.140), and two oI these times the source oI
deception is imputed to gain, thus indicating a dispositional Ilaw in the perceiver: µq
δολωθpς, , e φiλε, κcρδεσιν cντραπcλοις (“Friend, do not be deceived by shameIul
gains,” Pyth. 1.91-92); cντi µcν θνατeν φρcνες eκuτεραι , κcρδος αiνqσαι πρo δiκας
δoλιον τραχεiαν cρπoντων πρoς cπιβδαν óµως (“The minds oI mortals are rather quick to
praise tricky gain beIore justice, despite that mortals creep toward a rough reckoning the
next day,” Pyth. 4.139-140).
C CC CONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS
Pindar’s use oI aletheia reIlects a truth that exists prior to and independently oI
verbal statements, a truth which he incorporates in his overall conception oI poetry. This
conception views poetry as a system oI reciprocity between poet and laudandus but also
implicitly between poet and audience and incorporates truth into these relationships. The
principle oI uλqθεια thus characterizes both an objective reality as well as a personal
agreement between two parties. This agreement entails the poet’s duty to the laudandus,
which involves both accuracy and truthIulness in his praise, a praise that Ilatters, but
Pace Rosenmeyer 1955, 228 n. 9, where he discusses the diIIerence between apate and pseudos in Pindar,
arguing that “roughly, the Iollowing distinction might be hazarded: apate involves active
distortion,…whereas pseudos designates objective Ialseness, regardless oI whether it is due to error or
believably so. The varied Iocalizations oI ψεiδος and other terms Ior deception, I
surmise, reIlect the reciprocity oI this relationship involving both the speaker’s violation
oI trust, as well as the listener’s propensity towards being deceived. I do not mean to say
that Pindar Iaults the listener Ior being deceived; rather, the dual or ambiguous
Iocalization oI some oI these terms illuminates the violation oI these contractual
relationships on both sides oI a communication. I will discuss the interplay between
truth, Ialsehood, and relationships oI reciprocity in the next chapter.
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER T TT THREE HREE HREE HREE: :: : T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH, ,, , F FF FALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD, ,, , AND AND AND AND X XX XENIA ENIA ENIA ENIA IN IN IN IN P PP PINDAR INDAR INDAR INDAR
P PP PART ART ART ART O OO ONE NE NE NE: :: : T TT TRUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND X XX XENIA ENIA ENIA ENIA
In the Iirst halI oI this chapter I will argue that the relationship between praise and
uλqθεια in Pindar is connected to principles oI Iriendship and obligation such as ξενiα
and φιλiα and that the poet negotiates the potentially contradictory Iorces oI truth and
obligatory praise by deIining truth in terms oI poetic obligation to his laudandus.
Furthermore, Pindar conveys the impression that his commitment to praising the victor
will yield a truthIul account in the traditional sense oI an accurate representation oI
events and that the commitment to the laudandus is part oI a greater commitment to the
truth. The problem with Pindar’s conception oI truth is that its two main aspects,
accuracy and sincerity, are potentially contradictory. As I noted in the previous chapter,
Pindar, unlike his predecessors and contemporaries, speaks oI truth outside oI contexts oI
verbal accuracy, thus proposing a reality antecedent and external to its verbal accounts
and removing some oI the subjectivity that inheres in the word uλqθεια (cI. Krischer
1965). Secondly, Pindar uses the adjective uληθqς to convey accuracy but in some
contexts also to convey sincerity, i.e., a speaker’s assertion that what he expresses is what
he believes. The aspect oI sincerity inherent in some contexts oI truth presents a
subjectivity problematic in light oI the objectivity conveyed by uλqθεια. But these two
applications oI uληθqς do not have to be at odds with one another. In his book Truth and
TruthIulness Williams identiIies sincerity and accuracy as the two main “virtues” oI
truth, reIerring to the Iormer as the tendency oI a speaker to express what he believes,
whereas accuracy aims directly at truth.
He eIIectively demonstrates that truth-telling
requires both oI these virtues, the intention to represent accurately and the ability to do
Pindar’s use oI uληθqς likewise demonstrates that the potential conIlict between
the two applications oI the word can be reconciled when considered within a generic
Iramework: as an epinician poet, Pindar’s Iirst and Ioremost concern is to praise his
laudandus; thus every abstract concept he speaks about—uρετu, glory, athleticism, and
truth—must be understood in reIerence to this laudatory purpose. Pindar’s praise
narrative develops around a personal relationship between the poet and his laudandus,
which is conveyed by reIerences to the laudandus or to the poet himselI as a guest-Iriend
(ξεiνος; cI. Pyth. 6.48) or at times more closely as a Iriend (φiλος; cI. Ol. 1.92) and by the
use oI terms designating reciprocity such as charis, which is variously used to convey
As Bundy observes, the athlete’s uρετu represents a contribution
that must be repaid, and the epinician ode is a reciprocal return Ior this contribution.
The ode itselI Iorms part oI a reciprocal exchange between poet and laudandus.
Pindar incorporates uλqθεια into this type oI poet-victor relationship, a ritualized
Iriendship governed by certain expectations oI reciprocity. For a working deIinition oI
guest-Iriendship or xenia, I rely on the work oI Herman:
For analytical purposes ritualised Iriendship |i.e., xenia| is here deIined as a bond
oI solidarity maniIesting itselI in an exchange oI goods and services between
individuals originating Irom separate social units. This deIinition encompasses
the most distinctive Ieatures oI the institution and supplies criteria Ior postulating
its existence even iI it is not named explicitly in the evidence…Excluded are
relationships between strangers that involve payments Ior goods and services—as,
CI. Williams 2003, 84-148.
CI. Kurke 1993, 67; MacLachlan 1993, 87-123.
Bundy 1986, 57: “…uρετu creates a debt that must be paid in the true coin oI praise.”
Ior example, those between merchants and their customers, or mercenary soldiers
and their employers. People trading speciIic goods and services Ior payments
would hardly classiIy their relationship as one oI Iriendship.
(Herman 1987, 10)
As Slater notes, when Pindar claims to be a guest-Iriend oI the victor, he agrees to the
obligation “a) not to be envious oI his xenos and b) to speak well oI him. The
argumentation is: Xenia excludes envy, I am a xenos, thereIore I am not envious and
consequently praise honestly.”
To demonstrate the role oI uλqθεια within such a
relationship, I will examine Olympian 1, Olympian 10, and Nemean 7 as odes that reveal
the intricate connections between truth and poetic obligation.
T TT TRUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND RUTH AND P PP PRAISE RAISE RAISE RAISE: :: : O OO OLYMPIAN LYMPIAN LYMPIAN LYMPIAN 1 11 1
In his treatment oI the Pelops myth in Olympian 1 Pindar makes perhaps his most
Iamous statements about truth and poetry. He presents the usual rendition—that Tantalos
slaughtered his son and Ied him to the gods—but claims that this version is untrue, and
that Pelops’ disappearance is actually attributable to Poseidon’s love Ior him. Pindar’s
deIense oI his version rests on a claim that previous Ialse versions are shaped by a mortal
tendency to believe what is pleasant:
q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι·
Χuρις δ`, úπερ úπαντα τεuχει τu µεiλιχα θνατοiς,
cπιφcροισα τιµuν καi úπιστον cµqσατο πιστoν
cµµεναι τo πολλuκις·
uµcραι δ’ cπiλοιποι
µuρτυρες σοφeτατοι. (Ol. 1.28-34)
Indeed, there are many wonders, and somehow the speeches oI mortals,
stories, have been embellished beyond the true account and deceive with
intricate Ialsehoods; Ior Charis, who provides mortals with all pleasant
Herman’s work is on the actual practice oI xenia in the ancient Greek world. See also Kurke
1991, 135-159, who Iocuses on the metaphorical xenia that pervades Pindar’s poetry.
Slater 1979, 80. On the convention oI guest-Iriendship in Pindar, see Bundy 1986, 24-26; Race 1986,
90-91; Hubbard 1985, 156-162; and Kurke 1991, 135-159.
things, oIten renders the incredible credible by bringing honor. But days
to come are the wisest witnesses.
The contrast here is between mortal communications and the “true account,” a contrast
underscored by the plurality oI Ialsehoods as opposed to the singularity oI truth. Mortals
IalsiIy the truth through embellishment, a tendency that stems Irom charis, which seems
to represent poetry’s charms.
Pindar implies that he himselI has access to the “true
account,” which, coupled with his awareness oI embellishment’s risks, ensures the
tuthIulness oI his own account. The tendency both to generate Ialsehood and to believe it
is depicted as a mortal problem (βροτeν, 28; θνατοiς, 30). The reason Ior this becomes
clear when Pindar explains the role oI poetry.
These lines have been taken to reIer to poetry and even as statements oI praise Ior
the capacity oI well-craIted poetry, including Pindar’s, to persuade.
The ambiguity oI
his attitude toward persuasion and aestheticism prompts the question oI how his poetry is
Iundamentally diIIerent Irom that oI others. The next sentence provides a possible
answer: cστι δ’ uνδρi φuµεν cοικoς uµφi δαιµoνων καλu· µεiων γuρ αiτiα (“It is Iitting
Ior a man to say good things about the gods, Ior the blame is less,” Ol. 1.35). Pindar
suggests that his proper Iunction is to portray the gods Iavorably and expresses concern
that he might incur blame Irom an unIavorable portrayal. The aphorism about the
revelatory eIIects oI time connects the two concerns shaping his account, piety and truth,
CI. Gildersleeve 1885, 132 ad 30: “Χuρις: The charm oI poetry;” Kirkwood 1982, 52: “Here the
context indicates that χuρις is speciIically the charm oI song, as it oIten is in Pindar;” Instone 1996, 101 ad
30: “The charm or grace that makes poetry sweet;” Verdenius 1988, 20 ad 30: “Χuρις: ‘Charm’ is an
indispensable but ambivalent element in poetry.” This, like Socrates’ alleged ability to make the weaker
argument stronger, may not necessarily be a negative quality oI charis. CI. Gerber 1982, 59: “Even though
Pindar is critical oI the Ialse tales recorded by earlier poets, he is at the same time praising the power oI
poetry to make ‘the unbelievable believable.’” Kurke’s assertion that charis always designates a willing,
reciprocal exchange (1993, 67) is complementary to this particular instance oI charis: its charms are part oI
a poem’s giIt to its subject and its audience.
Pratt 1993, 124 and Gerber 1982, 59-60. CI. Ol. 1.105 where Pindar reIers to his own poetry as
and suggests that the two may complement one another. Furthermore, the conjoining oI
these two concerns has a number oI implications, the Ioremost oI which is that a true
account is ultimately controlled by the gods it portrays, Ior an account Iavoring the gods
is more likely to be true. The details oI an account are thus oI slight importance in the
overall assessment oI its truth-value.
This line has been interpreted as Pindar’s
unwillingness to privilege truth-telling above piety,
but his criticism oI inaccuracy in
other poetry makes it unlikely that he would risk such a criticism oI his own. Rather, he
asserts that his own account is both true and pious, thus implying that truth coincides with
what is appropriate to say about the gods. Pindar quite pragmatically suggests that while
his Iavorable portrayal oI the gods protects him Irom charges oI blame, truth and
appeasement oI the gods need not be mutually exclusive.
Inherent in Pindar’s criticism oI inaccuracy is the implication that he is privy to
the true account about the gods, yet he does not here cite direct communication with them
as the basis Ior this knowledge.
Instead, the source oI authority Ior Pindar’s version oI
this myth lies in his implications about true accounts. By suggesting that the true account
Such a deIinition, oI course, may not satisIy a modern sensibility oI truth, which, at a minimum should
be “(1) independent oI belieI; (2) immutable; and (3) public” (Kleiman and Lewis 1992, 92). Pindar’s
account, particularly juxtaposed against his expressed Iears oI retribution, does not draw authority Irom any
source other than his own belieI, nor is it publicly acknowledged as truth.
However, Pindar’s assertions in Olympian 1 could arguably conIorm to the second criterion. A
statement that is true Ior only a particular context can be considered immutable, iI it is stipulated that the
statement must be understood within its context. Thus, however much wiggle room Pindar allows himselI
to change his account elsewhere, its iteration here is considered immutably true Ior the context in which it
Pratt 1993, 126: “Here again Pindar does not justiIy his reIusal to speak ill oI the gods by appealing to
the truth or to what the gods deserve.”
CI. Scodel 2001, 123: “|Pindar| never cites |the Muses| as an authority Ior his versions oI a story, or Ior
any other point oI truth. Instead, they render songs beautiIul and appropriate.” The Muses are by no means
absent Irom his poetry, but his later reIerence to the Muses suggests corroboration with, rather than
subordination to, them: cµοi µcν eν , Μοiσα καρτερeτατον βcλος uλκµ τρcφει (“And so the Muse tends a
most mighty missile in strength Ior me,” Ol. 1.111-112). CI. Ol. 13.97 where Pindar claims to be an ally oI
the Muse and the Olgeithidai.
coincides with the pious one, Pindar creates room Ior Iabrication oI a myth whose
accuracy oI particulars does not matter so long as the depiction generally Iavors the gods.
His subsequent rejection oI slander is superIicially motivated by selI-interest (cµοi δ’
úπορα γαστρiµαργον µακuρων τιν’ εiπεiν· uφiσταµαι· , uκcρδεια λcλογχεν θαµινu
κακαγoρους, “It is useless Ior me to say one oI the blessed gods is gluttonous—I stand
alooI. Lack oI gain is oIten allotted to slanderers,” Ol. 1.52-53), but must be read in light
oI this earlier passage conjoining truth and praise. Pindar alleviates potential tension
between truth-telling and piety by suggesting that the two complement one another.
He thus constructs a Iramework oI credibility Ior his Iavorable depiction oI the
laudandus, Ior he establishes that a loyal account is also a true one. According to
Olympian 1.28-34, telling the truth is not only Iitting but also practical since Pindar’s true
account happens to depict the gods more Iavorably than Ialse accounts. Furthermore, his
observations about Charis, ψεiδος, and embellishment reIlect an awareness oI poetry’s
persuasiveness and express an assurance that the present poem will not employ charis and
embellishment to the same eIIect. Pindar is consequently able to characterize his own
ode as an embellishment oI Hieron’s qualities without sounding disingenuous:
cµc δc στεφανeσαι
κεiνον iππiç νoµç
χρq· πcποιθα δc ξcνον
µq τιν’ uµφoτερα καλeν τε iδριν úµα καi δuναµιν κυριeτερον
τeν γε νiν κλυταiσι δαιδαλωσcµεν úµνων πτυχαiς. (Ol. 1.100-105)
Pace Pratt 1993, 126-127 who cites this passage as well as Ol. 9.35-41 and Nem. 5.14-17 as Iurther
evidence that Pindar values tact and appropriateness above truth. I would argue that Pindar’s assertion in
Ol. 9.35-41 that to slander the gods is hateIul and inappropriate (παρu καιρoν, Ol. 9.38) reinIorces my
interpretation oI Ol. 1.28-35 that Pindar construes piety and truth-telling as complementary and uses the
language oI tact (cοικoς, καιρoς) to bridge the potential gap between the two. As Ior Nem. 5.14-17 where
Pindar ostensibly shies Irom telling the “exact truth” (uλuθει’ uτρεκcς, Nem. 5.17) about Peleus and
Telamon’s murder oI Phokos, his allusions to this deed are suIIiciently clear to recall the story without
providing Iull narration; thus, in this passage too the poet makes a show oI tactIulness while still
communicating discomIorting truths.
I must crown that man with a horse-tune in Aeolic song. I trust that there
is no host alive today to embellish with glorious Iolds oI songs, who is
both acquainted with good things and more authoritative in power.
The language oI embellishment recalls his similar characterization oI deceptive stories
(δαιδαλωσcµεν, 105; δεδαιδαλµcνοι, 28) and points up a similarity between his own
poetry and stories that ultimately prove to be Ialse. The diIIerence is that the accounts
Pindar has earlier criticized are perpetuated by those with no loyalty to the subjects they
depict. Pindar, by contrast, openly expresses his obligation to his patron Hieron (χρq,
103; ξcνον, 103) and to the gods (cστι δ’ uνδρi φuµεν cοικoς uµφi δαιµoνων καλu· µεiων
γuρ αiτiα, 35). The latter statement oI obligation occurs aIter a claim that other accounts
to the contrary are untrue (28). The juxtaposition oI these two claims oI truth and loyalty
has implications Ior Pindar’s similar declaration oI loyalty to Hieron, Ior it suggests that
loyalty to one’s subjects provides a basis Ior a true account. This insinuation about “true”
accounts may not be altogether believable or satisIactory to us,
but it is one that allows
Ior poetic obligation to coincide with truthIul reporting.
The passage Irom Olympian 1 gives us insight into the character oI epinician
poetry and how it relates to uλqθεια, which Iorms part oI the poet’s duty to his patron. I
argue that uλqθεια is part oI the poet’s duty to his subject matter, and that his statements
about poetry suggest a relationship between truth and obligation. My interpretation oI
Olympian 1 has presented a Pindaric notion oI truthIulness that balances an external,
objective truth with internal, subjective concerns by claiming that a truthIul account takes
into consideration one’s obligation to his subject. These two aspects oI epinician truth-
Indeed, Pratt discusses the problems oI Pindar’s claims in Olympian 1 and argues, along with Gerber
(1982, 59-60) that Pindar’s praise oI poetry’s power to persuade, albeit by deception (Ol. 1.28-32) suggests
that his own poetry could be persuasive, but untrue. I interpret the passage diIIerently, however, Ior I do
not think that Pindar questions the accuracy oI his own poetry here, instead creating a context in which
truth and praise can coexist.
telling, reality and obligation, are combined by Pindar as part oI his program oI praise.
By combining these two aspects oI truth, the poet lends authority to his praise poetry, Ior
he declares his devotion to the patron while mitigating his bias, encompassing both
devotion and objectivity in his poetic program.
T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH P PP PERSONIFIED ERSONIFIED ERSONIFIED ERSONIFIED
Pindar especially combines reality and obligation in his personiIications oI
uλqθεια. Two passages explicitly connect uλqθεια with obligation, each showcasing
uλqθεια personiIied and thus providing insight as to how Pindar envisions and deIines it.
The Iirst I will consider is a Iragment, quoted by Stobaeus:
Aρχu µεγuλας uρετuς,
eνασσ’ Aλuθεια, µq πταiσpς cµuν
σuνθεσιν τραχεi ποτi ψεuδει. (Fr. 205)
Beginning oI great excellence, Queen Truth, do not cause my good Iaith to
stumble against rough Ialsehood.
By personiIying and invoking Truth, Pindar suggests that this passage has been
composed with the aid oI, and thus in obligation to, divine Truth.
He does not claim
that the words are spoken by the divinity herselI, but he does adopt the stance oI a truth-
teller by expressing reverence Ior a goddess who embodies truth and will thereIore aid his
He explains his choice to invoke Alatheia by claiming that she is the beginning oI
great achievement. The meaning oI µεγuλας uρετuς is unclear without context,
uρετu probably reIers to athletic achievement and its subsequent poetic praise or to some
Stob. ecl. 3.11.18 (3.432 Wachsmuth-Henze).
CI. MacLachlan 1993, 101: “As alatheia served the sovereign Olympia in proving/revealing victors (Ol.
8.1-2), so the poet serves the queen Alatheia in giving an accurate testimony oI the victory event.”
MacLachlan 1993, 101 glosses simply “great deeds oI excellence.”
mythical event associated with athletic achievement.
The term σuνθεσις presents a
problem oI clarity. Slater translates σuνθεσις in this passage as “my good Iaith”;
Farnell translates “pledge”;
MacLachlan and Gentili interpret σuνθεσις as a reIerence to
the poet’s commission Ior composing a victory ode.
These various translations point to
at least two possible meanings oI σuνθεσις: it reIers either to the poet’s promise to
produce an ode
or to the ode itselI as a particular object oI pledge. Even with more
context the reIerent oI σuνθεσις might not be certain, but it is possible to read it as
reIerring to both the original agreement to compose an ode and to the ode itselI. This
type oI ambiguity would not be surprising in Pindar, whose poetry’s many qualities do
not usually include superIicial clarity.
II σuνθεσις can have this double meaning,
Alatheia is both a testament to the poet’s reliability in keeping obligations as well as
assurance that the words oI the poem are true. Alatheia works on two levels, to ensure
CI. similar language in Olympian 8.6-7 (µεγuλαν uρετuν) and Nemean 1.8-9 (uρχαi δc βcβληνται θεeν ,
κεiνου σuν uνδρoς δαιµονiαις uρεταiς). The latter passage has drawn much attention Irom commentators.
Fennell 1899, 7 translates, “Its |i.e., the chariot oI Chromios and Nemea| Iirst courses are laid with gods
(Ior stones).” Bury 1890, 11 prescribes this translation: “First hymning the gods, and withal the heroic
excellences oI that man (Chromius), I have laid a Ioundation Ior my song.” Kirkwood 1982, 251 opts Ior
“The Ioundations oI my song, which lie in the gods, are set down with the aid oI….”
On areta and poetry, see Norwood 1945, 49: “|Pindar| uses |uρετu| both oI excellence and oI the
success won thereby.” CI. Race 1986, 64: “|S|ong needs deeds to celebrate, and success needs song to
make the uρετu last.”
Slater 1969, 480 s.v. σuνθεσις.
Farnell 1932, 452.
MacLachlan 1993, 101; Gentili 1981, 219-220.
CI. the opening oI Olympian 10.
On ambiguity in Pindar, see StanIord 1939, 129-136.
Pindar’s poetry certainly does not preclude the possibility Ior double meaning, particularly through his
use oI gnomes. For example, see Nem. 10.54, where the gnome (καi µuν θεeν πιστoν γcνος, “And indeed,
the race oI gods is trusty”) reIers both to the preceding lines about the Tyndaridai’s consistently Iavorable
position toward the victor’s Iamily, while also looking Iorward to the themes oI loyalty that pervade the
rest oI the poem.
the composition oI the promised poem and to guarantee its veracity. Pindar’s poem thus
represents an obligation, and part oI that obligation involves telling the truth.
Moreover, Pindar, in requesting protection Irom Alatheia against Ialsehood
(ψεuδει), ascribes agency to her and emphasizes the power she wields over his σuνθεσις.
By personiIying uλqθεια and constructing her as an active agent, Pindar situates truth as
his master; it is controlled by neither the poet nor the Muses, unlike in Hesiod, Theog.
26-28. Attribution oI agency to concepts that might otherwise be thought oI as passive is
well attested in Pindar
and illuminates the striking degree to which Pindar diIIers Irom
others poets previous or contemporary, oI whom only Parmenides and Bacchylides also
personiIy uλqθεια. In the Parmenidean example Aletheia is not a personiIication on the
same level as Pindar’s Alatheia, Ior it is a passive rather than active entity:
χρεe δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
qµcν Aληθείης εuκυκλέος uτρεµcς qτορ
qδc βροτeν δόξας, ταiς οuκ cνι πίστις uληθής. (Fr. 1.28-30)
It is proper that you should learn all things, both the unshaken heart oI
well-rounded Truth, and the opinions oI mortals, in which there is no true
For example, Pindar makes chronos the active subject oI a verb in Nem. 1.46, Pae. 2.27, Ol. 10.8, Ol.
6.97, Nem. 4.43, and Fr. 159. For Iurther discussion see Gerber 1962.
Parmenides’ conception oI uλqθεια is not completely divergent Irom Pindar’s and indeed shares some
similarities with Pindar’s ideas oI truth. For example, Parmenides’ distinction between uλqθεια and mortal
opinion (βροτeν δόξας) resembles Pindar’s opposition between “the true account” and the utterances oI
mortals in Olympian 1.28 (q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι). Both Parmenides and Pindar express a distrust oI
mortal opinion or utterance and claim a preIerence Ior uλqθεια.
Parmenides’ instructions to his addressee, however, diIIer slightly Irom Pindar’s proclaimed
stance in relation to truth in that Parmenides prescribes knowledge oI both uλqθεια and δoξα, although
criticizing the latter, while Pindar does not assert the necessity oI obtaining mortal knowledge.
Furthermore, the heart oI Parmenides’ Aletheia is “unmoved” or “calm” (uτρεµcς), an epithet that implies
stationary stability as an immovable reIerence point that will not change. Pindar’s “true account” in
Olympian 1.28 is deIined in accordance with Iavorable depiction oI the gods (Ol. 1.35), which does not
strongly preclude variability. Pindar diverges Irom the Parmenidean position by demonstrating knowledge
oI mortal utterances, but denouncing them as untrue Ior their unIavorable depiction oI the gods.
For Iurther discussion on the term δόξα in the Parmenides Iragment, see Papadis 2005.
Although Aletheia’s possession oI a heart (qτορ) qualiIies her as a personiIication, she is
something to be handled. She does not instigate learning herselI; instead, she, along with
δoξα, is what should be learned by the addressee oI Parmenides’ poem. Pindar, by
contrast, calls upon Alatheia to take an active role in his poetry. This diIIerence could be
attributed to a diIIerence in purposes prescribed by diIIering poetic genres, but
Bacchylides, whose genres parallel Pindar’s, demonstrates a similar disengagement Irom
truth as a poetic obligation.
PersoniIied uλqθεια is a more active entity in Bacchylides than in Parmenides, but
still critically diIIers Irom Pindar’s Alatheia: Aλuθεια θεeν oµoπολις , µoνα θεοiς
συνδιαιτωµcνα (“Truth alone inhabits the same city as the gods,” Fr. 57). Alatheia’s
association with the gods is expressed with a metaphor oI inhabitation rather than a Iull-
scale, active personiIication oI the type seen in Pindar, Fragment 205. The Bacchylidean
Alatheia here has no direct connection with poetry or poetic obligation. OI course, the
absence oI context allows us to surmise that this Alatheia could have had such a
connection in the original context, but even iI that were the case, Bacchylides’ Alatheia
still lacks the syntactical proximity to obligation that Pindar’s has in Fragment 205 and is
thus, at the very least, much less closely associated with poetry and poetic obligation than
What this means is that Pindar deIines truth in a new way as part and parcel oI the
contractual relationship between himselI and his laudandus or subject matter. My
interpretation oI Fragment 205 has been hindered by its Iragmentary nature and has
required Irequent supposition or assumption about the original context, but the other
Pindaric personiIication oI uλqθεια conIirms what Fragment 205 suggests and Iortunately
appears in a complete ode:
Τoν Oλυµπιονiκαν uνuγνωτc µοι
Aρχεστρuτου παiδα, πoθι φρενoς
cµuς γcγραπται· γλυκu γuρ αuτ( µcλος oφεiλων cπιλcλαθ’· e Μοiσ’,
uλλu σu καi θυγuτηρ
Aλuθεια ∆ιoς, oρθµ χερi
cνιπuν uλιτoξενον. (Ol. 10.1-6)
Read me the name oI the Olympic victor, the son oI Archestratos, where it
has been written in my mind, Ior owing him a sweet song, I have
Iorgotten. O Muse, you and the daughter oI Zeus, Truth, with a correcting
hand ward oII Irom me the charge that I harm a guest-Iriend with broken
These lines are usually taken to reIer to the poet’s composition oI Olympians 1, 2, and 3,
which has taken priority over this ode and ostensibly caused him to neglect his duties to
the present victor Hagesidamos. Immediately aIter conIessing his negligence, the poet
invokes the Muse and Alatheia Ior help. Whether or not they are the addressees oI the
they have at least been invoked in connection with the poet’s
need Ior a reminder and his maniIold request to protect his reputation Irom reproach
(cνιπuν) and to prove that he neither harms his Iriends (uλιτoξενον) nor tells lies
The Iirst opposition between the Muse and Alatheia on the one hand and
IorgetIulness on the other is highlighted by the wordplay between cπιλcλαθ’ and
Aλuθεια, but here a distinction between the Muse and Alatheia may be drawn, Ior the
Muse more than Alatheia is appropriate to the task oI remembrance. Although it is not
Verdenius 1988, 55 collects the various scholarly conjectures as to the addressee oI uνuγνωτε,
concluding that “the imperative is used ‘absolutely’ and has rhetorical Iorce.” CI. Hubbard 1985, 67, who
says the imperative is addressed to the audience, and Kromer 1976, 423, who speculates the addressee to be
“someone else.” As I have intimated above, identiIying the addressee oI uνuγνωτε matters less than
recognizing the conceit oI IorgetIulness that the imperative helps to construct.
The pseudea here are usually taken to reIer to promises (i.e., by the poet to produce an ode) that, when
broken, have the appearance oI Ialsehood.
See Gildersleeve 1885, 214, Kromer 1976, 422, and Pratt 1993,
altogether possible to isolate the one Irom the other,
it is possible to surmise the role oI
the Muse in light oI her role in other odes where she is the daughter oI Mnemosyne (Isth.
and “loves to remind” (Nemean 1.12; cI. Pae. 14.35). II the Muse is, then,
more responsible Ior the task oI remembrance, the connection between Alatheia and
memory is at best a weak one, especially in light oI the number oI other charges the two
goddesses have been asked to Iorestall.
Furthermore, the poet’s own purported
IorgetIulness is not entirely believable since the request to read something that has been
written on his heart suggests that he has not really been IorgetIul so much as inattentive.
II there is such a connection between Alatheia and memory here, it is the poet’s own
rather than public consciousness, so the current discussion about truth and
memory would have to be enlarged beyond the poet’s role in shaping public memory.
Although some scholars have tried, e.g., Gildersleeve 1885, 214: “Memory is to Iind the place and
Truth is to discharge the debt;” Nassen 1975, 223: “While he invokes the Muse Ior inspiration, he will rely
on Truth, who is the daughter oI mighty Zeus, Ior endorsement oI the claims which he is about to make
regarding the victor and his city;” Verdenius 1988, 56: “The help oI the Muse suIIiciently guarantees the
poet’s truthIulness…, but in the present case, where sincerity oI his promise to the victor might be doubted,
the assistance oI Aletheia provides extra security.”
CI. Gildersleeve 1885, 214 ad Μοiσα: “The eldest oI the old three was Μνqµη.”
CI. Pratt 1993, 119: “Here Pindar clearly plays on a notion oI aletheia as a kind oI unIorgetting. But
this passage does not make truth synonymous with memory, Ior Pindar also opposes lies (pseudea) to truth
Kromer argues that Alatheia reIers to the subjective, experiential truth oI the poet and is thus to be
contrasted with Atrekeia in this poem: “Alatheia…is to be contrasted with Atrekeia and thereIore with the
commercial aspect oI the poet’s song. Its Iunction is suggested by its proximity to cπιλcλαθ’ whose
meaning indicates that the poet’s memory, his perception oI past events, is Iaulty. Alatheia is allied with
the poet’s persona, with the selI and with personal experience, and comes to represent the possibility oI
evaluating the song in non-economic terms” (Kromer 1976, 425).
Detienne, who argues the most unwaveringly Ior an equivalence between truth and memory, Iocuses
largely on the role oI the poet in preserving public memory, although he does seem to speciIy two kinds oI
memory, individual and collective, in praise poetry: “The ‘memory’ oI a man is precisely ‘the eternal
monument oI the Muses,’ that is, the same religious reality as the speech oI the poet, graIted on memory
and actualized in praise. At the level oI sung speech, memory thus has two meanings. First it is a giIt oI
second sight allowing the poet to produce eIIicacious speech, to Iormulate sung speech. Second, memory
is sung speech itselI, speech that will never cease to be and that is identiIied with the being oI the man
whom the speech celebrates” (Detienne 1995, 48-49).
The more signiIicant request is Ior the Muse and Alatheia to vindicate the poet
against charges oI guest-Iriendship violation.
This concern about guest-Iriendship is a
matter oI convention, but also helps to deIine what Alatheia could mean and what her
Furthermore, her placement in an interpersonal relationship reIlects an
innovative idea that has only one near precedent, in Mimnermus (uληθείη δc παρέστω ,
σοi καi cµοί, πάντων χρqµα δικαιότατον, “Let the truth be present between you and me,
the most just possession oI all,” Fr. 8.1). The poet’s incorporation oI the Muse and
Alatheia into a guest-Iriendship is unprecedented. II we examine Alatheia in relation to
xenia, the designation “daughter oI Zeus” (θυγuτηρ Aλuθεια ∆ιoς, 3-4) becomes clearer,
Ior Zeus is the patron god oI the guest-host relationship. This Iormulation oI xenia
couples poetic obligation with poetic truth in a way that was hinted at in Fragment 205,
but receives Iuller explication here.
The language Pindar uses makes clear his obligation to the victor (oφεiλων, 3;
uλιτoξενον, 6; χρcος, 8; τoκος, 9), but he situates this obligation in a context oI Iriendship
by Iusing it with a spirit oI willingness. He cites concern Ior Iriendly charis (φiλαν…cς
χuριν, 12) as one Iactor motivating his composition oI the ode, thus bringing together
obligation and Iriendship (φiλαν) with charis, a term that Leslie Kurke asserts “designates
a willing and precious reciprocal exchange.”
This emphasis on willingness amongst
CI. Hubbard 1985, 67 n. 165, where he argues against the notion that the imperative uνuγνωτε is
directed at the Muse and Alatheia and adduces as evidence the shiIt in addressee signaled by uλλu in line 3.
II the conjunction uλλu does introduce a new topic, it is possible that the address to the Muse and Alatheia
has little or no connection with the admission oI IorgetIulness that opens the ode (1-3).
Kromer 1976, 422 expresses the role oI Alatheia succinctly: “At the end oI the strophe the poet calls
upon the Muse and Alatheia, who, by helping him to compose the song, will bring about the realization oI
the action prescribed by the contract. II the poet keeps his promise he will be Ireed Irom ‘the reproach oI
lying’, Ior his pledge will be seen in retrospect to have predicted a real event. It will become ‘true.’”
Kurke 1993, 67. For a discussion oI epinician charis, see MacLachlan 1993, 87-123, where she
discusses charis in epinician poetry as the gratiIication oI the victor.
parties in a relationship oI obligation recurs later in the ode where Pindar reminds his
victor Hagesidamos to give thanks to his trainer (χuριν, 17), just as Patroklos did to
By merging obligation with Iriendship and asking Alatheia to guide these
relationships, Pindar constructs a truth-goddess who inIorms his relationship to his patron
along with his rhetoric.
This model oI contractual relationships is mirrored in the mythical exemplum oI
Herakles and Augeas. Pindar presents their story as a point oI origin Ior the Olympic
games, which are Iounded (in this version) aIter Herakles prevails over Augeas. This
story serves as a mythical exemplum oI the guest-host relationship. While the opening
invocation depicts a guest-host relationship based on promised payment and Iollow-
through oI that promise, line 12 suggests that a spirit oI willingness should also
accompany the obligation. Herakles and Augeas represent positive and negative models
oI the xeinos, as determined by how well they exhibit the willingness and reliability that
characterize xenia. Pindar depicts Augeas as someone who undermines the guest-host
relationship by reIusing Herakles his promised Iee Ior cleaning the stables. Olympian 10
does not include a Iull account oI this myth, but alludes to Augeas’ Iailure to pay
(λuτριον…µισθoν, 29) and consequently dubs Augeas a guest-cheater (ξεναπuτας, 34)
with a term that recalls the earlier charge against the poet (uλιτoξενον, 6); the poet thus
CI. Nicholson 1998, 28, who similarly notes the personal tone oI Pindar’s truth-telling rhetoric, Iocusing
on the pederastic imagery oI the odes: “…any suggestion…that this truth is the production oI a
disinterested eyewitness is belied by the strongly pederastic Ilavor oI Pindar’s epinician poetry…|In Ol.
10.99-105| Pindar’s testimony is, as Pratt observes, valideated by his status as an eyewitness (eidon, “I
saw”), but this is not the testimony oI a dispassionate observer. Far Irom being the truth oI a modern court,
Pindar’s truth is implicated in his adoption oI a pederastic persona.”
CI. Adkins 1972, 17 on truth-telling in Homer: “Truth-telling—the telling oI desired, useIul truths, at
all events—is to be expected only Irom φiλοι, those who are Ior one reason or another within the same co-
operative group; and even there it is only to be told when uρετq and status-considerations do not Iorbid it.
uses Augeas as a negative example Ior his own character. Like the poet-patron
relationship, this relationship oI payment Ior service is labeled guest-Iriendship.
FulIillment oI this obligation, however, is insuIIicient evidence oI good guest-
Iriendship, Ior Pindar also Iaults Augeas Ior his unwillingness to pay, which is in stark
contrast to Herakles’ willingness to perIorm the task: eς Αuγcαν λuτριον , ucκονθ’ cκeν
µισθoν íπcρβιον , πρuσσοιτο (“so that he |Herakles|, as a willing man, might exact his
payment Ior service Irom powerIul Augeas, an unwilling man,” 28-30). The adjective
íπcρβιον, here describing Augeas, echoes the description oI Herakles at line 15, an echo
that emphasizes the symmetrical nature oI the guest-host relationship and Iurther indicts
Augeas Ior his maltreatment oI an equal.
Furthermore, the wordplay in ucκονθ’ cκeν
underscores the expected parity and the actual disparity between Herakles’ and Augeas’
dispositions and echoes similar verbal emphases on reciprocal exchange in Pindar (e.g.,
φιλcων φιλcοντ’, úγων úγοντα προφρoνως, Pyth. 10.66; οiκοθεν οiκαδε, Ol. 7.4).
Pindar’s slight variation oI such phrases serves simultaneously to elucidate the symmetry
and reciprocity expected oI a guest and host and the Iailure oI Augeas to IulIill this
With the myth oI Herakles and Augeas, Pindar reinIorces his portrayal oI poet-
patron relations in lines 1-12, which similarly couple obligation with Iriendship and
willingness. Through the Iigure oI Augeas Pindar illustrates what it means to be a bad
guest-Iriend—Iailure and unwillingness to keep promises to a Iriend oI equal stature—
and expresses hope not to seem such a Iigure himselI. By portraying his attitude toward
Note also that íπcρβιος appears in the odes only in Olympian 10.
the victor as one oI willing obligation and reinIorcing this stance with an illustrative
example Irom myth, Pindar claims that he is not only reliable, he is also sincere.
Having outlined the terms oI poetic obligation, the poet opens another question:
obligation to whom? While the system oI debt and repayment he has set Iorth ostensibly
centers on the patron, his invocation to the goddess at least implies an obligation partly to
her, thus opening the possibility oI obligations other than to the laudandus.
the ode the poet speaks oI his decision to sing oI this contest and claims this decision is
impelled by the ordinances oI Zeus: uγeνα δ’ cξαiρετον uεiσαι θcµιτες eρσαν ∆ιoς
(“The ordinances oI Zeus prompt me to sing the choice contest,” 24).
He reIers to his
obligation to the patron as a divine rule (θcµιτες) that is governed by Zeus himselI,
thereIore suggesting that his relationship with his patron is part oI a structure oI
obligation that involves more than only himselI and the laudandus, Ior Iailure to uphold
this obligation is tantamount to a deIiance oI Zeus. Moreover, this structure oI obligation
relates to the opening oI the ode where Pindar calls on the Muse and Alatheia, calling the
latter the daughter oI Zeus. Pindar recalls Alatheia’s association with Zeus with this
explicit reIerence to obligations mandated by Zeus.
CI. MacLachlan 1993, 101, who senses a similar servile tone toward Alatheia in Fragment 205: “As
alatheia served the sovereign Olympia in proving/revealing victors (Ol. 8.1-2), so the poet serves the queen
Alatheia in giving an accurate testimony oI the victory event.”
Olympian 8.21-30 lays out the speciIic relationships between Zeus, xenia, and themis: cνθα
σeτειρα , ∆ιoς ξενiου , πuρεδρος uσκεiται Θcµις , cξοχ’ uνθρeπων. ó τι γuρ πολu καi πολλµ
pcπp, , oρθµ διακρiναι φρενi µq παρu καιρoν , δυσπαλcς· τεθµoς δc τις uθανuτων καi τuνδ’
uλιερκcα χeραν , παντοδαποiσιν íπcστασε ξcνοις , κiονα δαιµονiαν – , o δ’ cπαντcλλων χρoνος ,
τοiτο πρuσσων µq κuµοι – , ∆ωριεi λα( ταµιευοµcναν cξ Αiακοi (“|Aigina,| where Savior
Themis, the partner oI Zeus Xenios is honored more than among other men. For when much
swings in the balance in many directions, it is diIIicult to judge appropriately with a straight mind.
Some ordinance oI the gods set even this sea-girt land beneath strangers oI all kinds as a divine
pillar—and may time as it rises up not weary oI doing this— a land kept in trust Ior the Dorian
people Irom the time oI Aiakos”). Themis personiIied is the associate oI Zeus Xenios. These
lines highlight the duality oI xenia as a system instituted by gods Ior men, whose careIul
observation oI xenia-relationships constitutes service to the gods Themis and Zeus.
The signiIicance oI xenia as a sacred system oI hospitality, whose participants are
obligated not only to one another but also to the gods who govern this system, cannot be
underestimated. Disregard oI xenia, exempliIied by Augeas in Olympian 10, Ilouts not
only the luckless strangers who may encounter a corrupt host, but also the very gods who
implemented the system oI xenia in the Iirst place. The extreme ramiIications Ior one
who violates xenia are clear: Augeas suIIers the destruction oI his homeland and death at
the hands oI Herakles, the guest whom he has cheated (Ol. 10.34-42) and who later
establishes a precinct Ior Zeus in Augeas’ Iormer kingdom (43-45). The establishment oI
this sacred precinct is the ultimate response to Augeas’ guest-cheating and signals the
triumph not only oI his cheated guest Herakles, but also oI Zeus, the god oI xenia whom
Augeas’ maltreatment oI Herakles also oIIends.
R RR REALITY AND EALITY AND EALITY AND EALITY AND P PP POETRY OETRY OETRY OETRY: :: : N NN NEMEAN EMEAN EMEAN EMEAN 7 77 7
I argue that this sense oI overarching duty is one way the poet validates his truth-
telling claims, Ior he may avoid ostensible bias iI he can establish that his obligation to
the victor stems Irom a greater one to represent the truth. In this section I examine
Nemean 7 as an ode expressing dual obligations to represent deeds accurately and to
praise the victor, which together Iorm a truthIul account. The poet makes numerous
claims to truth (68-69, 77-79), all the while openly expressing his own role as helper to
the laudandus (33-34, 61, 75-76). He is able to reconcile his obligation to the victor with
his truth-telling rhetoric by making the case that an obligation to tell the truth should
inIorm all poetry and by basing this argument on an examination oI perception and reality
which opens the ode.
The truth-telling Iunction oI the epinician poet has been most succinctly
summarized by Louise Pratt:
Pindar and Bacchylides, more explicitly than any oI their poetic
predecessors, make claims to truth in their poetry. These claims are
limited, however, to asserting the validity oI the praises they sing. They
serve an encomiastic Iunction and should not be taken as statements about
the way all poetic narrative operates. Aletheia becomes important when
the poet’s responsibility Ior accurate representation becomes essential to
the poet’s Iunction as a poet oI praise. But neither these assertions oI truth
nor the Irequent rejections oI lies that complement them should be taken to
imply that Iictional elements should not enter into mythical narrative.
Both poets are interested in aletheia only insoIar as it means the accurate
apportionment oI praise, and they reject pseudea only when these entail
the improper attribution oI blame, that is, when slander and envy are
involved. (Pratt 1993, 115)
Pratt correctly emphasizes the signiIicance oI truth to encomium, but elides the critical
attitude Pindar takes to poets who do not tell the truth. As I will endeavor to
demonstrate, Pindar’s criticism oI other poets seems to be partly based on an explicit
contrast between epinician and other types oI poetry. More speciIically, I will argue that
Pindar criticizes Homer Ior composing poetry that irresponsibly privileges audience
reaction over accurate praise. I will also try to deepen and extend Pratt’s observations to
include the sphere oI obligation and how the aspect oI obligation shapes Pindar’s truth-
Nemean 7 begins with an invocation to Eleithyia, detailing the integral role she
plays in enabling human existence and articulating this existence with metaphors oI light
and darkness (úνευ σcθεν , οu φuος, οu µcλαιναν δρακcντες εuφρoναν , τεuν uδελφεuν
cλuχοµεν uγλαoγυιον 1βαν, “Without you, we do not look upon light nor black night,
nor do we gain the lot oI your beautiIul-limbed sister Hebe,” 2-4). This invocation works
on two levels: Eleithyia provides a suitable metaphor Ior an ode’s beginning, and a
means Ior introducing the laudandus Sogenes, whose birth is mentioned in lines 7-8.
See Young 1970 Ior the Iunction oI Eleithyia in Nemean 7. Young argues that the opening oI this ode is
a typically Pindaric type whereby the poet introduces a universal human experience beIore moving to the
speciIic case oI the laudandus.
The opening lines Iocus on all aspects oI existence, light and dark, which are
enabled by Eleithyia. The poet then shiIts the Iocus to light, which in this extended
metaphor comes to represent existence that is made known through poetry:
εi δc τuχp τις cρδων, µελiφρον’ αiτiαν
pοαiσι Μοισuν cνcβαλε· ταi µεγuλαι γuρ uλκαi
σκoτον πολuν úµνων cχοντι δεoµεναι·
cργοις δc καλοiς cσοπτρον iσαµεν cνi σuν τρoπç,
εi Μναµοσuνας cκατι λιπαρuµπυκος
εúρηται ¦τις} úποινα µoχθων κλυταiς cπcων uοιδαiς. (12-16)
II someone happens to do well, he throws a honey-minded cause into the
streams oI the Muses, Ior great deeds oI courage have much darkness
when they lack songs. We know oI a mirror Ior good deeds in one way, iI
someone Iinds recompense Ior toils in the Iamous songs oI poetry because
oI Mnemosyne with her bright headband.
Pindar delineates Iamiliar relationships between poetry, accomplishment, and memory
when he describes athletic accomplishment’s reliance on poetry Ior its gloriIication.
By using imagery oI darkness, he eIIectively equates poetry’s Iailure to memorialize a
great deed with the obliteration oI that deed. He invokes the obligatory aspect oI this
memorialization when he reIers to poetry as a recompense (úποινα, 16) aIIorded to
athletes whose accomplishments are owed gloriIication.
The opening lines
acknowledge the objective reality oI existence, which poetry then has the pivotal role oI
memorializing (or not) through accurate representation. Later, Pindar describes blame as
dark (σκοτεινoν, 61), thus implying that blame is tantamount to obIuscation. In light oI
his earlier comments on the obligatory aspect oI poetry (úποινα, 16), this reIerence to
dark blame suggests that obIuscation ought have no role in poetry. The invocation to
Eleithyia and the image oI a mirror amount to a dual conception oI poetry, Iirst as an act
Many scholars discuss the relationship between poetry and memory. E.g., Bundy 1986, Kurke 1991,
Detienne 1996, 48-49, and Pratt 1993, 115-129.
CI. Bundy 1986, 57: “…uρετu creates a debt….” For a discussion oI úποινα, see Kurke 1991, 108-134
and Finley 1981, 241.
oI creation by the poet, but secondly, as an obligatory act oI reIlection on a deed already
Pindar criticizes Homer’s Iailure to IulIill this dual Iunction oI poetry (creative
and reIlective) by pointing out his role in misrepresenting Odysseus and suggests that
such misrepresentation, poetic or not, caused the injustice suIIered by Ajax:
cγe δc πλcον’ cλποµαι
λoγον Oδυσσcος q πuθαν διu τoν uδυεπq γενcσθ’ Oµηρον·
cπεi ψεuδεσi οi ποτανµ ·τε~ µαχανµ
σεµνoν cπεστi τι· σοφiα δc κλcπτει παρuγοισα µuθοις. τυφλoν δ’ cχει
qτορ óµιλος uνδρeν o πλεiστος. εi γuρ qν
c τuν uλuθειαν iδcµεν, οú κεν óπλων χολωθεiς
o καρτερoς Αiας cπαξε διu φρενeν
λευρoν ξiφος. (Nem. 7.20-27)
I expect that Odysseus’ story has become greater than his experience on
account oI sweet-talking Homer, since something majestic lies upon his
lies and his soaring resourceIulness. Skill deceives, misleading with
stories. The majority oI men have a blind heart, Ior iI they had been able
to see the truth, mighty Ajax, angered over the arms, would not have Iixed
a smooth sword through his heart.
Although Pindar acknowledges and praises Homer’s skill as a poet (uδυεπq, 21; ποτανµ
τε µαχανµ, 22; σεµνoν, 23),
he Iaults Homer Ior his inaccurate representation oI
Odysseus as disproportionate to Odysseus’ actual experiences (πλcον’…λoγον Oδυσσcος
The implication here that poetry, as something at once new and a representation oI something old, must
balance its newness with its accuracy, becomes explicit in Nemean 8: πολλu γuρ πολλµ λcλεκται, νεαρu δ’
cξευρoντα δoµεν βασuνç , cς cλεγχον, úπας κiνδυνος· óψον δc λoγοι φθονεροiσιν, , úπτεται δ’ cσλeν uεi,
χειρoνεσσι δ’ οuκ cρiζει (“For many things have been said in many ways, and discovering new things to
put to the touchstone Ior testing is wholly dangerous, since words are relish to the envious, and envy
always grabs hold oI good men, but does not contend with lesser men,” Nem. 8.20-22). As he suggests in
Nemean 7, the poet here expresses concern that newness can run the risk oI compromising accuracy, this
time using the image oI the touchstone rather than the mirror. The metaphor oI the touchstone implies that
his praise is veriIiable. The passage Irom Nemean 8 presents accurate reporting in terms oI risk, rather than
obligation, and underscores the laudability oI the victor by suggesting that his susceptibility to attack by
envious people marks his membership among the good (cσλeν, 22). Pindar thus constructs a situation in
which praise and truthIul rhetoric are synonymous, Ior iI envy comes only to men who are esloi, the attacks
oI envy, while loathsome, are actually prooI oI a man’s laudability. For a discussion oI the touchstone
metaphor in Greek literature, see duBois 1991, 9-34.
CI. Pratt 1993, 127 who entertains the possibility that “Pindar here slyly praises Homer’s ability to
conIer more Iame on Odysseus than he deserved as a positive attribute oI poetry, a quality that a patron
might well appreciate.”
q πuθαν, 21). The opposition between speech and sight (λoγον, uδυεπq, 21; τυφλoν, 23;
iδcµεν, 25) points up the discrepancies between Homer’s account and the truth.
Similarly, the comparison between an experience and its account recalls the prescribed
symmetry between deeds and their reportage evoked by the image oI the mirror (14).
Pindar criticizes Homer Ior a lack oI such symmetry, which he himselI has just presented
as poetry’s obligation. He has indicated that poetry must combine its two Iunctions oI
creation and representation in a way that Homer’s poetry does not.
Pindar seems at Iirst to distinguish between Odysseus’ account (λoγον Oδυσσcος,
21), which has been composed by Homer, and the truth (τuν uλuθειαν, 25), thus pointing
out an instance in which poetry has shaped memory Ialsely. He continues the language
oI vision by lamenting the inability oI most men to see (iδcµεν, 25) the truth. His
reIlection on deceptive skill (σοφiα δc κλcπτει παρuγοισα µuθοις, 23) seems initially to
reIer to poetry and to draw attention to the reception oI poetic accounts (τυφλoν δ’ cχει ,
qτορ óµιλος uνδρeν o πλεiστος, 23-24), but the γuρ clause in line 24 indicates an
audience internal to the works oI Homer rather than Homer’s own audience. At this point
Pindar has merged audiences, Ior he has described poetry in terms that liken it to a visual
remembrance oI noble deeds, and he has impugned Homer’s poetry Ior being deceptive;
the observation on the blind hearts oI men acts as a pivot between Homer’s audience and
Pindar thus widens the sphere oI relevance Ior his assertions about
truthIulness, pointing out the consequences oI Ialsehood within the myth as well as
outside oI it.
CI. Pratt 1993, 128 who also makes this observation. Pratt notes the ambiguity oI the pronoun οi in line
22, taking it, as I do, as a reIerence to Homer rather than Odysseus. CI. also Segal 1967, 442 and Most
1985, 150-151 Ior discussion oI the close association between Homer and Odysseus in these lines.
The consequence oI this blindness is Ajax’s suicide. Nemean 8.24-34 provides a
more elaborate account, citing the preIerence oI the Danaans Ior Odysseus rather than
Ajax and similarly Iaulting deception as the cause oI Ajax’s downIall:
q τιν’ úγλωσσον µcν, qτορ δ’ úλκιµον, λuθα κατcχει
cν λυγρ( νεiκει· µcγιστον δ’ αioλç ψεuδει γcρας uντcταται.
κρυφiαισι γuρ cν ψuφοις Oδυσσq ∆αναοi θερuπευσαν·
χρυσcων δ’ Αiας στερηθεiς óπλων φoνç πuλαισεν.
q µuν uνoµοιu γε δµοισιν cν θερµ( χροi
cλκεα pqξαν πελεµιζoµενοι
íπ’ uλεξιµβρoτç λoγχµ, τu µcν uµφ’ Aχιλεi νεοκτoνç,
úλλων τε µoχθων cν πολυφθoροις
uµcραις. cχθρu δ’ úρα πuρφασις qν καi πuλαι,
αiµuλων µuθων oµoφοιτος, δολοφραδqς, κακοποιoν óνειδος·
u τo µcν λαµπρoν βιuται, τeν δ’ uφuντων κiδος uντεiνει σαθρoν. (Nem.
Yes, oblivion takes hold oI someone tongueless but valiant oI heart in
deadly striIe, and the greatest honor is held up to shiIty Ialsehood. For the
Danaans devoted themselves to Odysseus in secret ballots, but Ajax,
robbed oI the golden weapons, wrestled with death. Truly they did not
equally strike wounds in the warm bodies oI the enemy, as they drove
them back with man-assisting spears, both over newly-slain Achilles and
in the much-destroying days oI other toils. Indeed, there was hateIul
deception even long ago, the Iellow traveler oI Ilattering stories, with
treacherous thoughts, a maleIicent disgrace, which violates the luminous
and upholds the unwholesome renown oI those who should not be seen.
These lines provide an explanation oI the Odysseus-Ajax proximity in Nemean 7.20-27:
while Odysseus represents inIeriority with compensatory mendacity, Ajax embodies
valor lacking adequate verbal gloriIication. The generally accepted interpretation is that
these lines describe Odysseus’ willIul deception and manipulation oI the Greeks, who
subsequently express preIerence Ior him over the militarily superior Ajax.
E.g., Carey 1976, 31, who points out that this is a Pindaric innovation; Miller 1982, 118; Nisetich 1989,
22. For a list oI the diIIerent accounts about the awarding oI Achilles’ arms to Odysseus, see Most 1985,
Most 1985, 150 has an interesting interpretation oI the Odysseus passage Irom Nemean 7.20-23.
He diverges Irom the traditional view that these lines about Odysseus reIer to the judgment on Achilles’
arms, arguing instead that “Pindar may be suggesting that Homer, instead oI inquiring whether Odysseus’
this passage nor the one Irom Nemean 7, however, does Pindar explicitly Iault Odysseus’
mendacity Ior Ajax’s suicide.
Instead, he describes Ialsehood and deception in terms
Iocusing on Iaulty perception, perhaps caused by envy, to which he alludes in earlier lines
(8.20-22). Despite clear evidence to the contrary, the Greeks misjudge the relative merits
oI Ajax and Odysseus and inappropriately award Achilles’ arms to the latter. Pindar
again employs light and dark imagery, here to emphasize the blatant diIIerence between
Ajax, “the luminous” (τo µcν λαµπρoν, 34), and inIerior men like Odysseus who are “the
invisible” (τeν δ’ uφuντων, 34). While the terms ψεiδος and πuρφασις must reIer to
Odysseus’ misleading rhetoric, the lack oI a clear agent oI πuρφασις in lines 32-34 shiIts
Iocus Irom Odysseus
to the result oI his deception, i.e., inappropriate bestowal oI
praise and blame.
Pindar thereby points out the destructiveness oI an audience
receptive to deception and the poet’s responsibility to be aware oI his audience’s
Nemean 7 similarly points to the importance oI aligning perception with reality.
Pindar contrasts perception with truth by citing the example oI how Ajax was perceived
by the majority as opposed to what he actually did, terming the latter situation “the truth”
(τuν uλuθειαν, Nem. 7.25). The prior lines highlight the diIIerence between existence
narrative was truthIul or not, simply repeated Odysseus’ report in his own words.” Although I do not go as
Iar as Most does, I do see merit in his idea that Pindar merges Homer’s and Odysseus’ characteristics here.
CI. Most 1985, 152: “Pindar is careIul here |in Nem. 7| and elsewhere to avoid making the explicity
claim that Achilles’ arms were awarded to Odysseus only because Odysseus deceived and cheated the
CI. Most 1985, 152 n. 78: “Only in two other places |other than Nem. 7.23-27| does Pindar allude to the
óπλων κρiσις. In I. 4.35-36, the blame is explicitly given to the entire Greek army rather than to one
individual. In N. 8, Ajax’s deIeat is attributed to the envious, who grasp the noble but have no quarrel with
the ignoble (21-22): as the subsequent comparison between Odysseus and Ajax makes clear (28-32), these
enviers cannot be Odysseus (Ior Pindar nowhere reIers to someone who was χεiρων than Odysseus) but
instead only the Greek army, who grasped the noble Ajax but had no quarrel with the lesser Odysseus.”
By contrast, similar terms are used oI Hippolyta in Nem. 5.29-32, but she is explicitly the agent oI
deception in those lines. See my discussion in the Iollowing chapter.
and knowledge with the Iigure oI Eleithyia, who eIIects both light and drkness, and the
mirror oI poetry, which alone can publicize a deed; the signiIicance oI this diIIerence is
demonstrated by Ajax’s suicide, the morbid consequence oI perception incongruent with
reality. Moreover, the ambiguity oI Pindar’s observation oI men’s blindness—does he
reIer to Homer’s audience or to Odysseus and Ajax’s?—places some responsibility Ior
proper perception oI truth on poets.
These lines are quite signiIicant Ior what they suggest about how Pindar
conceives oI his poetic duty. With Eleithyia, Pindar highlights the whole oI existence,
then he narrows the Iocus to those aspects oI existence involving knowledge and
perception and what the poet’s role should be in relation to these two concepts. He
suggests that part oI poetic obligation stems Irom the Iunction oI poetry as the sole means
Ior knowledge oI great deeds (cργοις δc καλοiς cσοπτρον iσαµεν cνi σuν τρoπç, 14).
This conception oI poetry as the only such source oI knowledge contains a dual
obligation, one to gloriIy the agent oI great deeds (úποινα, 16), the other to propagate the
knowledge oI these deeds.
Although Pindar here criticizes Homer as the counter example Ior his own poetry,
impugning his misleading Ialsehoods, in Isthmian 4.37-39 he lauds Homer Ior duly
This contradiction begs consideration oI what constitutes truth and
Ialsehood Ior Pindar and what his poetic relationship to these two concepts is. The image
oI the mirror suggests that poetry and reality should have a symmetrical relationship to
one another, and Pindar Iurther suggests that Homer’s poetry has somehow Iailed to
preserve this symmetry. In contrast to Homer’s exaggeration oI Odysseus’ deeds, Pindar
In Isthmian 4.37-39, Pindar lauds Homer Ior duly gloriIying Ajax. See Fitch 1924 Ior an explanation oI
the body oI texts encapsulated by Pindar’s use oI the name “Homer.” See also Nisetich 1989.
sets out to accomplish what Homer has not. His praise oI Homer in Isthmian 4 suggests
that Homer duly gloriIies Ajax (it is Odysseus’ audience, not Homer’s, that Iails to see
the truth about Ajax), but over-gloriIies Odysseus.
What Pindar’s criticism oI Homer implies about poetry becomes explicit when he
speciIically deIines his poetry as part oI a guest-host Iriendship:
ξεiνoς εiµι· σκοτεινoν uπcχων ψoγον,
úδατος eτε pοuς φiλον cς úνδρ’ úγων
κλcος cτqτυµον αiνcσω· ποτiφορος δ’ uγαθοiσι µισθoς οiτος.
ceν δ’ cγγuς Aχαιoς οu µcµψεταi µ’ uνqρ
1ονiας íπcρ uλoς οiκcων, καi προξενiµ πcποιθ’, cν τε δαµoταις
óµµατι δcρκοµαι λαµπρoν, οuχ íπερβαλeν,
βiαια πuντ’ cκ ποδoς cρuσαις. (Nem. 7.61-67)
I am a guest-Iriend. Holding oII dark blame, I will praise, leading genuine
Iame like streams oI water to a man who is my Iriend, Ior this is suitable
payment Ior good men. An Achaian man being nearby, dwelling over the
Ionian Sea, will not blame me, and I trust in hospitality, and among
townsmen my gaze is bright since I do not overstep the mark and I have
removed all things Iorced Irom my path.
As in Olympian 10.3-12, Pindar borrows imagery Irom the various spheres oI guest-host
obligation, Iriendship, and monetary exchange (µισθoς, 63) to characterize his
relationship to his patron. The poet praises his patron (here, the victor’s Iather Thearion)
as his Iriend (φiλον, 62) and also someone to whom he is beholden in accordance with a
systematic relationship between guests and hosts (ξεiνος, 61; προξενiµ, 65
), which, in
terms oI praise poetry, involves protection Irom blame (uπcχων ψoγον, 61). Yet these
obligations to his patron do not preclude the accuracy oI his praise,
Ior the poet
Nisetich 1989, 9-23 argues that Pindar’s varying attitudes towards Homer stem Irom the varying
contexts and occasions in which the various odes were composed. Perhaps so, but I would also add that
Pindar Iinds certain aspects oI Homer more laudable than others.
CI. Pyth. 10.64 (πcποιθα ξενiµ) and Ol. 1.103 (πcποιθα δc ξcνον).
CI. Kurke 1991, 136 (citing Slater 1979, 80) who argues that “The bond oI xenia authenticates the
poet’s encomium, but it also participates in a precise social context.”
qualiIies the Iame that he brings to his host as “genuine” (cτqτυµον), which creates the
impression oI sincerity and authenticity, rather than blind praise,
and this genuine Iame
constitutes payment in the guest-host relationship between poet and laudandus.
An explicit diIIerence between Pindar and Homer, then, is that Pindar’s poetry
reIlects an obligation to his subject comparable to the stance oI piety he takes toward the
gods in Olympian 1.28-35. Furthermore, he has suggested in Nemean 7.14 that his
poetry must accurately reIlect noble deeds. Taken together, these statements suggest that
a truthIul account stems Irom a relationship oI obligation between poet and patron, absent
in Homer’s poetry, and adheres to praise that accurately reIlects the kleos oI the
laudandus. Leslie Kurke has argued that Pindar’s description oI guest-Iriendship between
poet and patron involves reciprocity tantamount to equality;
in the context oI Nemean
7 I would argue that this equality between poet and patron is meant to reIlect the parity
between poetry and its subject matter, Ior each relationship is governed by obligation. At
least two levels oI obligation are outlined in Nemean 7: there is an obligation to reIlect
deeds accurately since poetry is their only “mirror,” and there is the obligation that the
poet has to his patron-host. Pindar even addresses the possibility oI excessive praise in
his assurance that he does not “overstep the mark” (íπερβαλeν, 66), thus recalling the
contrasting example oI Homer, who presents a λoγος that exceeds Odysseus’ πuθα.
CI. Carey 1981, 159 ad κλcος cτqτυµον: “cτqτυµον emphasizes the truth oI Pindar’s words (in contrast
to Homer and óµιλος uνδρeν o πλεiστος).
Kurke 1991, 93 can be helpIul here. Kurke, Iollowing Bourdieu, has argued that this metaphor oI
payment does not suggest an impersonal monetary exchange; rather, the values oI the archaic guest-host
relationship continue in Pindar’s time, even though the language has broadened to reIlect the increased use
oI real, rather than symbolic, currency.
See Kurke 1991, 140-141, where she discusses Ol. 1.103-105 and Pyth. 10.63-65. Both passages
mention guest-Iriendship in a way similar to Nem. 7.65 (προξενiµ πcποιθ’).
There is also a subtle implication that these relationships oI reciprocity between
guest and host and oI symmetry between experience and account should be preserved
because oI some duty to someone other than the patron. When Pindar points out a Ilawed
relationship between the poet and the person he praises, the victim oI this Ilaw is
someone other than the object oI praise. Homer’s excessive praise oI Odysseus is
associated with the blindness oI Odysseus and Ajax’s peers, Ior Nem. 7.24 reIers
ambiguously to either Homer’s or Odysseus’ audience, and Pindar’s characterization oI
Homer’s poetry as deceptive (ψεuδεσι, 22; κλcπτει παρuγοισα µuθοις, 23) echoes his
characterization oI Odysseus’ deceptiveness in Nemean 8 (ψεuδει, 25; πuρφασις, 32;
αiµuλων µuθων, 33). Excessive praise oI Odysseus is tantamount to Ialsehood that is
harmIul not to Odysseus but to Ajax. In light oI Ajax’ Iate Pindar’s assurance that he
avoids excessive praise oI Thearion (66) not only validates the accuracy oI his praises,
but also reassures his audience that no one could be harmed by excessive praise the way
Ajax was harmed by hyperbolic praise oI Odysseus. Such an assurance thus implies a
consideration Ior the welIare oI others besides the patron.
What I have examined in this section is the relationship between truth and poetic
obligation, and I have argued that Pindar presents his obligation to the victor as certiIying
a true account. Furthermore, I have argued that part oI the poet’s obligation is to relay
the truth. My study oI Alatheia in Fragment 205 and Olympian 10 Iocused on the
connection between Alatheia and obligation, while my examination oI Nemeans 7 and 8
Iocused on Pindar’s criticism oI poets who are not bound to a program oI accurate
representation. The primary contrast that Pindar points up between himselI and Homer is
one oI xenia: he, as a guest-Iriend to the laudandus, is able to provide a more accurate
and balanced account than a poet who does not observe such constraints oI obligation.
What Pindar’s criticism oI Homer and selI-portrayed contrast with Homer suggest is that
a poet’s obligation, oIten articulated in terms oI xenia, must be associated with truth and
vice versa, and that poetry composed outside the bounds oI xenia potentially yields
Ialsehood and deception. A question then arises as to how deception and Ialsehood relate
to relationships oI xenia, a topic to which I now turn.
P PP PART ART ART ART T TT TWO WO WO WO: :: : F FF FALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD, ,, , D DD DECEPTION ECEPTION ECEPTION ECEPTION, ,, , AND AND AND AND X XX XENIA ENIA ENIA ENIA
The negativity with which we view ψεiδος might stem Irom an intuitive reaction
against Ialsehood or deception oI any sort, and Pindar’s use oI ψεiδος by and large Ialls
in line with this modern sensibility.
Pindar Irequently denies that there is ψεiδος in his
poetry as part oI his truth-telling rhetoric,
a rhetoric necessitated by the conventions oI
his genre, which casts his relationship with his patron as a Iriendship or guest-Iriendship
in which he is obligated to speak the truth. Each instance oI Pindar’s reIusal to tell a
ψεiδος about his laudandus occurs in an ode where he has also portrayed his relationship
to the victor as one oI guest-Iriendship or lauded the patron as a good host.
I argue that
these disavowals oI ψεiδος are to be understood within a larger system comprising
aletheia and xenia and excluding pseudos and deception.
I have observed that several depictions oI deception, concealment, or distortion
occur in Pindar’s mythical digressions and, like his denials oI Ialsehood, take place in
contexts oI perversion or violation oI guest-Iriendship. Because Pindar’s myths oIten
provide a Iramework Ior studying the complicated relationship between pseudos and
Indeed, I cannot agree with Hubbard’s assertion that “Pindar recognizes…that Ialsehood is not an
absolute evil” (1985, 102).
CI. Ol. 4.17, Ol. 10.5, Ol. 13.52, Nem. 1.18, Nem. 7.49, Fr. 11, and Fr. 205.
See Ol. 4.4, Ol. 10.6, Ol. 13.3, Nem. 1.20, Nem. 7.61.
xenia, I have chosen to examine examples oI interaction between pseudos and xenia in
the myths with the aim oI understanding how pseudos aIIects the xenia between poet and
patron. The numerous connections between Pindar’s encomiastic material and his inlaid
mythical digressions have long been acknowledged. Furthermore, Pindar himselI does
not always delineate clear boundaries between his mythical comparanda and the outer
praise narrative, Ior example in Nemean 7.23-24 or in Olympian 1, where Pindar
attributes Ialse Pelops stories both to poets (1.37) and to Pelops’ own neighbors (1.47).
His deIt and seamless maneuvering between myth and non-myth suggests that his
attitudes toward truth, poetry, and obligation are not conIined to statements explicitly
about poetry, but can be elucidated by his presentations oI myth as well. I will examine
the Tantalos myth oI Olympian 1, the Ixion myth oI Pythian 2, the Koronis myth oI
Pythian 3, and the Peleus and Hippolyta myth oI Nemeans 4 and 5, each oI which
demonstrates the incongruity oI deception with ritualized sacred relationships such as
xenia and marriage.
P PP PSEUDOS SEUDOS SEUDOS SEUDOS AND AND AND AND X XX XENIA ENIA ENIA ENIA: :: : T TT THREE HREE HREE HREE T TT TYPES OF YPES OF YPES OF YPES OF O OO OPPOSITION PPOSITION PPOSITION PPOSITION
1. The Interweaving oI Poetic Obligation and Myth in 1. The Interweaving oI Poetic Obligation and Myth in 1. The Interweaving oI Poetic Obligation and Myth in 1. The Interweaving oI Poetic Obligation and Myth in Olympian Olympian Olympian Olympian 1 11 1
Pindar’s reIormulation oI the Tantalos and Pelops myth is well-known, and I have
already discussed it in some detail. In sum, Pindar dismisses the traditional accounts oI
Pelops’ disappearance as stories that “deceive with elaborate Ialsehoods” (ψεuδεσι
ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι, Ol. 1.29), presents his own version (36-45), recounts the traditional
version that he has debunked (46-51), and provides his own explanation Ior Tantalos’
punishment (54-66). Tantalos’ crime in the traditional myth is serving up his son Pelops
Hubbard has identiIied several mythical distortions or perversions oI xenia that occur in Pindar, which
include the stories oI Tantalos in Olympian 1, Ixion in Pythian 2, and Ischys in Pythian 3. For Hubbard’s
complete list and a discussion oI xenia in Pindar, see Hubbard 1985, 156-158.
as a meal Ior the gods. Pindar Iinds this account unacceptable, asserting that he cannot
depict the gods as gluttons (cµοi δ’ úπορα γαστρiµαργον µακuρων τιν’ εiπεiν, 52), and
posits that Tantalos’ true crime is his Iailure to recognize great Iortune (µcγαν óλβον, 56)
and stealing and sharing the gods’ nectar and ambrosia as a result (60-64).
Scholarly Iocus on Pindar’s variation oI this myth tends to be on the Iate oI
but I would like to examine some oI the other diIIerences between Pindar’s
rendition and the way he presents the traditional version. To reIormulate the popular
myth he changes key details concerning not only the Iate oI Pelops, but also the setting oI
interaction between Pelops and the gods. According to Pindar the traditional account oI
Pelops and Tantalos incorrectly portrays a gross perversion oI the guest-host relationship
involving the slaughter and consumption oI Pelops by the gluttonous gods:
úδατος óτι τε πυρi ζcοισαν εiς uκµuν
µαχαiρµ τuµον κατu µcλη,
τραπcζαισi τ’ uµφi δεuτατα κρεeν
σcθεν διεδuσαντο καi φuγον.
cµοi δ’ úπορα γαστρiµαργον µακuρων τιν’ εiπεiν· uφiσταµαι. (48-52)
|One oI the envious neighbors said| that they cut your limbs with a sword
and threw you into the boiling height oI the Iire, and at the end oI the meal
around the tables, they divided up your Ilesh and ate it. It is useless Ior me
to say one oI the blessed gods is gluttonous—I stand alooI.
The details oI cutting, boiling, and devouring are vividly and grotesquely violent.
Moreover, it is grammatically ambiguous who perIorms the butchering, Ior the subject oI
τuµον and διεδuσαντο is unstated, thus leading us to assume the same subject as Ior
φuγον, i.e., the gods.
Pindar’s report oI what others say about this myth makes it
unclear who is ultimately at Iault Ior the murder and consumption oI Pelops and thus
suggests that the gods are culpable Ior knowingly partaking in cannibalism. This
See, e.g., Köhnken, 1974; GriIIith 1990, 200.
CI. Gerber 1982, 85.
implication oI culpability on the gods’ part is a distortion oI the traditional account and is
not attested in any other known version oI this myth.
Pindar presents Tantalos’ meal as the pinnacle oI proper guest-host hospitality in
stark contrast to this image oI the disordered, gluttonous, and willingly cannibalistic
gods. Tantalos invites the gods to a meal to repay them Ior a similarly hospitable gesture
on their part:
oπoτ’ cκuλεσε πατqρ τoν εuνοµeτατον
cς cρανον φiλαν τε Σiπυλον,
uµοιβαiα θεοiσι δεiπνα παρcχων. (Ol. 1.37-39)
When |Pelops’| Iather called them to his most well-ordered Ieast and to
Iriendly Sipylos, providing a meal Ior the gods in return Ior theirs….
The language emphasizes the Iriendliness oI Tantalos’ invitation (φiλαν, 38), the
attention to good order (εuνοµeτατον, 37), and the participation in Ieasting (cρανος, 38,
here translated as “Ieast,” is more literally rendered “contribution to a Ieast”
recasts this interaction as a well-ordered, convivial, and respectIully hospitable event
between gods and mortals, an event instigated by the gods’ prior hospitality toward
Tantalos (uµοιβαiα θεοiσι δεiπνα, 39). It is in this context that Poseidon becomes smitten
with Pelops and abducts him (40-42). The Pindaric version thus casts the gods as
proponents oI the guest-host relationship in contrast to the popular version where the
gods themselves violate xenia. In Pindar’s version Tantalos alone is to blame Ior
violating xenia when he steals the nectar and ambrosia oI the gods to give to his Iriends.
Pindar attributes the Ialse version oI this myth to two parties. Within the myth
itselI an envious neighbor is responsible Ior propagating the Ialse story oI Pelops’
Gerber 1982, 85.
According to Gerber 1982, 74, citing Vondeling 1961, 262, reciprocity is implied in this word.
Alternatively, the word could suggest contribution; Tantalos’ contribution would be his son Pelops.
consumption by the gods to the gossip oI an envious neighbor: eς δ’ úφαντος cπελες,
οuδc µατρi πολλu µαιoµενοι φeτες úγαγον, , cννεπε κρυφµ τις αuτiκα φθονερeν
γειτoνων (“When you disappeared and men, although much-striving, did not lead you to
your mother, one oI the envious neighbors immediately said secretly that…,” Ol. 1.46-
47). But Pindar introduces the Pelops and Tantalos myth with a rumination on the mortal
tendency toward exaggeration and Ialsehood (28-29) and later suggests that the external
propagation oI this myth is attributable to previous poets (σc δ’ uντiα προτcρων
φθcγξοµαι, 36). The distinction between poets and mythical characters is unclear, Ior
Pindar blurs this distinction and in so doing aligns envy with Ialsehood as dual causes oI
a misrepresentative story. Falsehood and envy begin as corrupting Iorces within the
myth, aimed speciIically at distorting the careIul hospitality that Tantalos provides to the
gods in emulation oI their own prior hospitality. Pindar then interweaves poets’
motivations with those oI Tantalos’ neighbors and makes Ialsehood a relevant aspect oI
each. Falsehood becomes a key player within the myth oI Tantalos as well as outside oI
it, Ior it is the envious neighbor who Iirst starts the Ialse tale that mischaracterizes the
gods and the xenia in which they take part. A similar conIlation occurs in Nemean 7.20-
27, where Pindar moves seamlessly Irom criticism oI Homer’s representation oI
Odysseus to Odysseus’ misrepresentation oI Ajax, as I discussed in the Iirst part oI this
chapter. These passages demonstrate the interconnectedness between myth and poetry
and the applicability oI myth’s lessons to the obligation oI the poet.
Pindar thus uses the Tantalos digression to show violations oI xenia on several
diIIerent levels, internal and external to the myth. Within the myth Tantalos violates
xenia by Iailing to appreciate his extraordinary Iavor among the gods and misusing their
giIts to the point oI betrayal, but he is not the only oIIender.
A second perversion oI
xenia occurs outside oI the myth by the poets who slander the gods by depicting their
disregard Ior xenia. In casting Tantalos as the sole violator oI xenia, Pindar discredits the
traditional version, which depicts a complete corruption oI xenia by both gods and men.
The two violations oI xenia are interrelated, as this slander originates within the myth, by
the envious neighbor oI Tantalos (47), and continues without, by the poets who propagate
this erroneous tale. Thus, the internal and external elements oI the myth work in
conjunction with one another, as the poets who tell the Ialse version are akin to the
gossiping neighbors who start the rumor that Pelops has been eaten. These poets’
pseudos stems Irom presenting a picture oI godly behavior that is out oI line with xenia
and Irom propagating this lying myth.
There are thus two issues oI xenia at play here: the xenia between the poet and
the gods is external to the myth, while the xenia between the gods and Tantalos is internal
to the myth. The Iormer is implied by the poet’s expressed Iears oI blame and
impoverishment (αiτiα, 35; uκcρδεια, 53). When the poet attributes these to pseudos and
deception (28-29), he is implying his participation in a relationship oI reciprocal beneIit
wherein he escapes these consequences by providing a Iavorable account about the gods.
This xenia between the poet and the gods is intricately tied to the depiction oI xenia
within the myth, so that the poet’s relationship with the gods is aIIected by how he
portrays their relationship with Tantalos. When the poet aligns “the true account” with
the Iavorable one, as I discussed earlier, it Iollows that pseudos would be anything that
would weaken a Iavorable depiction. Moreover, Pindar implies that a reciprocal
Scholarship that notes the ode’s lessons oI xenia (e.g., Hubbard 1985, 156) tends to Iocus on Tantalos
rather than those who tell his story.
relationship between poet and subject embraces the true account (such as it is) and shuns
deception and Ialsehood. By interweaving the internal details oI the myth with the
external motivations oI poetic composition, Pindar intertwines content and obligation.
Consequently, Pindar revises the traditional version to depict a violation oI xenia without
harming his own xenia with the gods. The other version, riIe with Ialsehoods, distorts the
very image oI the gods’ preservation oI xenia, thereby harming the teller’s own xenia
with them. The contrast between Pindar and other poets is not merely a contrast between
the details oI their respective accounts, it is also an implicit contrast between their
respective relationships with the gods and reIlects Pindar’s conception oI poetic
obligation and Ialsehood.
2. 2. 2. 2. Pseudos Pseudos Pseudos Pseudos as as as as Punishment Ior Punishment Ior Punishment Ior Punishment Ior Viola Viola Viola Violating ting ting ting Xenia Xenia Xenia Xenia: Ixion in : Ixion in : Ixion in : Ixion in Pythian Pythian Pythian Pythian 2 22 2
The story oI Ixion in Pythian 2 provides a variant on the occurrence oI pseudos
outside a guest-host relationship. Pindar tells us the story oI Ixion, a mortal man who,
like Tantalos, has the rare privilege oI living among the gods, but subsequently loses this
privilege through his own error and suIIers the torment oI being permanently bound to a
spinning wheel in the Underworld.
He tells us oI two speciIic crimes that result in
Ixion’s eternal damnation: the murder oI a Iamily member and the attempted seduction
oI Hera, in retaliation Ior which Zeus Iashions a Ialse Hera, a cloud bearing the
appearance and sexual allure oI the real one. Ixion couples with this Hera-cloud under
the misapprehension that she is real and begets Kentauros, who in turn becomes the
eponymous Iorebear oI the halI-man, halI-horse creatures Iamiliar Irom mythology.
Unlike his predecessors Pindar depicts the crime primarily as a violation oI a
special relationship between Ixion and Zeus. Having been accorded every blessing and a
Perhaps coincidentally Pythian 2 and Olympian 1 are both to the same victor Hieron.
pleasurable liIe among the Olympian gods (εuµενcσσι γuρ παρu Κρονiδαις , γλυκuν cλeν
βiοτον, µακρoν οuχ íπcµεινεν óλβον, Pyth. 2.25-26), Ixion nevertheless squanders this
liIe by overstepping the bounds oI propriety and developing a lust Ior Hera. In so doing
he disturbs the delicate balance oI his relationship with Zeus, which is essentially a guest-
host Iriendship in which the two participants are a god and a mortal. Ixion’s lust is
thereIore a twoIold oIIense since he has wronged both a host and a god. Thus does
Pindar tell us that one must observe one’s proper place among the gods (χρq δc κατ’
αuτoν αiεi παντoς oρuν µcτρον, 34). In response to Ixion’s violation, Zeus deceives him
with the Hera-cloud, which Iormalizes the dissolution oI xenia between himselI and
Ixion. Since Ixion has behaved in a manner unsuitable Ior a xeinos, he eIIectively severs
his relationship with Zeus, leaving Zeus Iree to enact a retributive deception.
The usual story, as Glenn Most summarizes, is that Ixion has promised his Iather-
in-law giIts in exchange Ior the bride, but murders him when he attempts to collect the
giIts. Madness overcomes Ixion, whom Zeus eventually purges oI blood-guilt and invites
only to expel him Ior his attempted rape oI Hera. While Pindar makes
speciIic reIerence to both oI Ixion’s crimes (30-34), his reIerence to the Iather-in-law’s
murder is vague and presupposes a precise Iamiliarity with the rest oI the myth.
Details oI Ixion’s bloodguilt are omitted or downplayed in Pindar’s version, which
Iocuses instead on the attempted seduction oI Hera. Furthermore, it is Zeus more than
Hera who is depicted as the victim oI Ixion’s crime. While the crime is clearly attempted
rape, Pindar later includes Zeus as a victim along with Hera, who is relegated to a
possession oI her husband: (1ρας óτ’ cρuσσατο, τuν ∆ιoς εuναi λuχον , πολυγαθcες, “He
Most 1985, 77.
Most 1985, 81-82.
Iell in love with Hera, whom Zeus’ joyous acts oI love possessed,” 27-28). By doing so,
Pindar underscores Ixion’s action as a violation oI Zeus and reIormulates the rape as a
diIIerent type oI oIIense. Even Ixion himselI understands his oIIense primarily to be a
violation oI his host rather than oI Hera: the mythical digression opens with a description
oI Ixion’s punishment, and the admonition he is Iorced to utter Irom his wheel oI torment
Iocuses on his betrayal oI Zeus instead oI his other crimes (τoν εuεργcταν uγαναiς
uµοιβαiς cποιχοµcνους τiνεσθαι, “Go and pay your beneIactor back with acts oI gentle
In depicting Ixion’s crime as a violation oI xenia, Pindar departs signiIicantly
Irom other versions oI the myth. Ixion’s lust Ior Hera inverts Homer’s presentation,
where it is Zeus who couples with Ixion’s wiIe (Il. 14.317). Furthermore, in casting Zeus
as the Iashioner oI the Hera-cloud, Pindar again varies Irom an account in which Ixion’s
crime is depicted as more directly against Hera, who invents her own retaliatory
These diIIerences are signiIicant, Ior they demonstrate Pindar’s shiIt in
Iocus to the relationship between Zeus and Ixion and his incorporation oI the Hera-cloud
as a key component oI that relationship. In addition to a punitive instrument oI Ixion’s
downIall, this cloud represents a symbolic act oI communication by Zeus, a substitute Ior
a verbal response to Ixion’s wrongIul lust Ior Hera. Pindar reIers to the Hera-cloud as a
pseudos, a word he usually reserves Ior verbal Ialsehoods:
cπεi νεφcλµ παρελcξατο
ψεiδος γλυκu µεθcπων úιδρις uνqρ·
εiδος γuρ íπεροχωτuτµ πρcπεν Οuρανιuν
θυγατcρι Κρoνου· úντε δoλον αuτ( θcσαν
Ζηνoς παλuµαι, καλoν πqµα. (Pyth. 2.36-40)
See Carey 1981, 39 ad 40, who cites RE X 1376; see also Gildersleeve 1885, 260, citing Schol. Eur.
…since he lay with a cloud, an unwitting man pursuing a sweet lie, Ior the image
suited the highest oI the gods in heaven, the daughter oI Kronos. Zeus’ guile set it
as a trap Ior him, a beautiIul bane.
The pseudos is the imitation oI Hera that Zeus has Iabricated as a trap (δoλον, 39) and a
bane (πqµα, 40) Ior Ixion. Through this Hera-cloud, Zeus conveys to Ixion a Ialse
message that seduction oI Hera is permissible. Thus Zeus eIIectively “speaks” to Ixion
through the Hera-cloud.
What this episode reveals in terms oI xenia and pseudos is that the two Iorces are
at odds with one another, but not necessarily in the ways one might expect. Ixion’s crime
is neither deception nor Ialsehood, but rather, inappropriate seduction. Pseudos occurs in
this myth as a response to Ixion’s violation and consequent dissolution oI xenia. Ixion
has eIIectively severed his relationship with Zeus by Iailing to recognize his proper place
among the gods, thus leaving Zeus Iree to enact a deception and Ialsehood in retribution.
Falsehood and deception can be introduced into the relationship only once the delicate
balance oI xenia has been disturbed. Thus Pindar speaks oI this Ialsehood in a largely
positive manner, attributing no wrong-doing to its creator, Zeus, and expressing disdain
only Ior Ixion’s own part in the aIIair.
What is striking about this case oI pseudos is its Iocalization through its recipient
rather than its creator, a phenomenon I discussed in Chapter Two. Pindar does not
obscure Zeus’ agency in creating the Ialse Hera, who is introduced in the narrative as a
trick created by Zeus’ wiles (39-40). But this brieI reIerence to Zeus is embedded within
a narrative that Iocuses increasingly on Ixion’s reaction to and interaction with the Hera-
cloud. The description oI the Ialse Hera-cloud as “sweet” (γλυκu, 37) Iocalizes through
Ixion and thus eclipses Zeus’ role in craIting this Ialsehood. Similarly, the phrase
“beautiIul bane” (καλoν πqµα, 40) cleverly encapsulates Ixion’s downIall with its cause,
Ior it is Ixion’s Iavorable disposition towards this Hera-cloud as an object oI beauty that
will prompt his lust Ior it.
This Iocalization through Ixion has the eIIect oI emphasizing Ixion’s
culpability—he is the one who has eIIectively severed his guest-Iriendship with Zeus and
thus brought the Hera-cloud upon himselI. Pindar even makes Ixion the agent oI his own
punishment (τoν δc τετρuκναµον cπραξε δεσµoν , coν óλεθρον óγ’, “He Iashioned that
Iour-spoked Ietter as his own destruction,” 40-41). OI course, Ixion does not literally
build the wheel himselI, but the attribution oI grammatical agency here reIlects how
Ixion’s hybris (28) and inability to endure the blessings oI living among the gods (25-26)
have led directly to the wheel’s creation.
Although in other contexts, Pindar criticizes
the use oI deception, here he censures Ixion Ior the pre-existing lust that makes him prone
to being deceived. As Oates observes, “Ixion was úιδρις in not recognizing his
limitations and also úιδρις in being deceived by the cloud.”
Moreover, the nature oI this pseudos resonates with some ideas Pindar has
elsewhere communicated about pleasure, perception, and poetry. The relevance oI
Ixion’s story to the role oI Pindar’s poetry is implied by verbal echoes: Pindar tells us
that Ixion made the Iour-spoked (τετρuκναµον, 40) Ietter his own punishment,
receiving a general message (τuν πολuκοινον uνδcξατ’ uγγελiαν, 41). These phrases,
which Iorm the transition between the respective stories oI Ixion and his descendants,
echo the opening oI the ode where Pindar reIers to his poem as “a message oI the Iour-
CI. Gildersleeve 1885, 260 ad cπραξε: “‘EIIected,’ ‘brought about,’ and not cπραξατο.” Also, cI. Gantz
1978, 23: “Note too that it is not Zeus who binds Ixion, but Ixion who binds himselI.” The notion oI selI-
Iorged punishment persists at least until Dickens, whose Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol haunts
Scrooge with the words, “I wear the chain I Iorged in liIe. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded
it on oI my own Iree will, and oI my own Iree will I wore it.”
Oates 1963, 379.
On the signiIicance oI the Iour-spoked Ietter, see Race 1997 vol. 1, 235 n. 2 and Faraone 1993.
horse chariot” (uγγελiαν τετραορiας, 4).
Furthermore, the Ixion episode, while not
explicitly about poetry, does oIIer a view oI Ialsehood and deception that explains
Pindar’s general disavowal oI them in his own poetry. Pindar Irames the experience oI
Ixion as one that involves his interaction with a pseudos. As I have argued above, the
poet tells the story oI the pseudos Irom the point oI view oI the one who experiences it.
This Iocalization through the perceiver resonates with some oI Pindar’s observations in
Olympian 1 concerning the relationship between Ialsehood and pleasure:
q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι·
Χuρις δ`, úπερ úπαντα τεuχει τu µεiλιχα θνατοiς,
cπιφcροισα τιµuν καi úπιστον cµqσατο πιστoν
cµµεναι τo πολλuκις·
uµcραι δ’ cπiλοιποι
µuρτυρες σοφeτατοι. (Ol. 1.28-34)
Indeed, there are many wonders, and somehow the speeches oI mortals,
stories, have been embellished beyond the true account and deceive with
intricate Ialsehoods; Ior Charis, who provides mortals with all pleasant
things, oIten makes the incredible credible by bringing honor. But days to
come are the wisest witnesses.
As I have already discussed, Pindar identiIies Ialsehood and deception as problems in the
propagation oI stories and examines the psychology oI believability. He attributes the
credibility oI a story to the pleasures aIIorded by Charis (τu µεiλιχα, 29) and posits that
all stories that possess this quality, regardless oI their truth-value (úπαντα, 29), are
persuasive. Moreover, he emphasizes that his observations apply to mortal beings: the
tendency both to tell Ialsehoods and to believe them iI they are pleasurable is a human
one (βροτeν, 28; θνατοiς, 29). With these lines Pindar evokes the ancient idea that
Oates 1963, 349 also notes these connections, as does Hubbard 1985, 136. CI. Most 1985, 78: “In a
certain sense, the uγγελiα oI Ixion (41) and the uγγελiα oI Pindar (4) are one and the same.”
verbal artIulness produces credibility, as Alcinoos observes in the Odyssey (σοi δ’ cπι
µcν µορφq cπcων, cνι δc φρcνες cσθλαi, 11.367).
Although these two passages present two very diIIerent contexts oI Ialsehood,
there are striking parallels. The emphasis in the Olympian 1 passage on mortality as a
deIining condition oI Ialsehood and persuasion seems particularly appropriate to Ixion,
the mortal who Iails to appreciate his divine Iriendships Iully. The Iigure oI Ixion
encapsulates Oympian 1’s reIerences both to the mortals who tell Ialse stories and those
who are persuaded by them, Ior Pindar’s portrayal oI Ixion, as I have argued, Ioregrounds
Ixion’s experience and Iascination with the Ialse Hera to the point where he eIIectively
becomes the agent oI his own punishment. A Iurther point oI connection lies in the role
oI Charis, whose eIIect in Olympian 1 is to bring credibility to all stories by making them
pleasant. MacLachlan compares the persuasive eIIects oI Charis on a poet’s audience to
those oI Aphrodite on a lover: “The work oI charis in poetry is to soIten an audience.
This releases in them a response they might not otherwise make, akin to being touched by
In the case oI Ixion, the pleasure aIIorded by the Ialse Hera is explicitly sexual
and is based on his attraction to the real Hera. Like the Charis oI Olympian 1.30 that
makes an account pleasurable regardless oI its veracity, Ixion’s sexual attraction is to
both the real and the Ialse Hera. Moreover, with his conIidence that the revelatory
process oI time will curtail the believability oI Ialse stories (1.33-34), Pindar suggests
Iurther that the pleasures associated with these Ialse stories are also short-lived. Such an
For the relationship between the truthIulness and aesthetic quality oI what is said, see Adkins 1972.
MacLachlan 1993, 114. See also her discussion on p. 113, esp. n. 38, where she connects the instance oI
Charis in Ol. 1.30 to a subsequent characterization oI the love relationship between Pelops and Poseidon in
observation resonates with the immediacy oI Ixion’s interaction with the Ialse Hera,
which, although oIIering initial pleasure, ultimately results in eternal condemnation.
Ixion’s pleasure, then, could be said to result Irom a charis that Zeus has
bastardized and adapted Ior his punishment. Instead oI immediate torment in the
Underworld, Zeus’ initial response is to give Ixion something that will provide pleasure,
thus maintaining a semblance oI their guest-host relationship. The charis emblematic oI
is replaced by a perversion, aIIording an empty pleasure that
results Irom inappropriate lust rather than mutually respectIul xenia.
pleasure oI the pseudo-Hera produces the material eIIect oI oIIspring, this oIIspring is not
attended by the Charites (Pyth. 2.42-43).
Zeus takes advantage oI Ixion’s wrongIul
propensity Ior sexual pleasure to turn that pleasure against him and to take away the
charis that might have accompanied Ixion and his kin had he not oIIended his host. The
myth oI Ixion thus presents a complicated perversion oI xenia, in which the immediate
consequence oI its violation is a pseudos that simulates the joy brought by charis in a
healthy guest-host relationship. As in Olympian 1 where the pseudea oI Ialse accounts
distort the xenia oI Tantalos and the gods, the pseudos presented in Pythian 2 represents a
variant perversion oI the guest-host relationship.
3. Sex, Lies, and the Guest 3. Sex, Lies, and the Guest 3. Sex, Lies, and the Guest 3. Sex, Lies, and the Guest- -- -Host Relationship Host Relationship Host Relationship Host Relationship: The Hera : The Hera : The Hera : The Hera- -- -Cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta Cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta Cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta Cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta
The Iigure oI the Hera-cloud in the Ixion myth raises the issue oI gender and its
relationship to truth and Ialsehood. As the invention oI Zeus, the Hera-cloud represents a
CI. Kurke 1991, 67: “Charis, as always, designates a willing and precious reciprocal exchange.”
CI. MacLachlan 1993, 121: “|Ixion’s| punishment…was to Iind emptiness instead oI IulIillment: The
woman to whom he made love was ‘empty,’ a cloud, and the sweetness he pursued was an illusion.”
CI. MacLachlan 1993, 121: “Further, he |Ixion| and his oIIspring are isolated Irom human society, Irom
passive entity, a physical embodiment oI the pseudos that Zeus wishes to communicate to
Ixion, yet she possesses her own agency and enough oI the real Hera’s sexual allure to
attract and couple with Ixion. Thus the cloud combines male deception and Iemale
seduction and tells us that Iemale seduction can be one Iorm oI the Ialsehood and
deception that endanger guest-host relationships. Pindar’s language oI deception and
seduction must now be considered within the broader context oI ancient Greek treatments
oI women. In his depictions oI sacred relationships such as xenia, Pindar employs a
Iamiliar type oI deceptive Iemale that dates to Hesiod’s Pandora, who is, among other
things, a Iigure oI guile and deceit.
Indeed, Pindar’s Hera-cloud bears striking resemblance to Pandora, whom Hesiod
describes in similar language and gives comparable characteristics.
Both Pandora and
the Hera-cloud are oxymorons: as the scholiast to Pindar notes, the “beautiIul bane”
(καλoν πqµα, Pyth. 2.40) oI the Hera-cloud echoes Hesiod’s description oI Pandora as a
beautiIul evil (καλoν κακoν, Theog. 585) and a great bane to mankind (πqµα µcγα,
Theog. 592). Furthermore, each Iemale Iigure has been constructed as a likeness or an
image, comparable to its model but not equivalent to it. Hesiod’s Pandora is made in the
image oI a devout maiden (παρθcνç αiδοip iκελον, Theog. 572) while the Hera-cloud, oI
course, is an imitation oI Hera (εiδος…íπεροχωτuτµ…θυγατcρι Κρoνου, Pyth. 2.38-39).
Each Iemale Iigure embodies Ialsehood and deception: the Hera-cloud is a “sweet lie”
(ψεiδος γλυκu, Pyth. 2.37) and Pandora, too, is described as a deception (αuτuρ cπεi
δoλον αiπuν uµqχανον cξετcλεσσεν, Erg. 83; eς εiδον δoλον αiπuν, uµqχανον
uνθρeποισιν, Theog. 589). Perhaps most importantly, each Iemale Iigure is created by
CI. Most 1985, 82-84 who discusses the correlation between the Hesiod’s Pandora myth and Pindar’s
Ixion myth, positing a parallel between Prometheus and Ixion.
the mandate and wiles oI Zeus (Ζηνoς πuλαµαι, Pyth. 2.40; cI. Κρονiδεω διu βουλuς,
Theog. 572 ÷ Erg. 71).
Thus these Iigures represent acts oI communication and exchange by Zeus, who
produces each oI them to punish mortals, yet they are also given the ability to act oI their
own accord. As entities that are paradoxically both passive and active, pseudo-Hera and
Pandora embody a recurrent Iemale type in Greek thought. In her discussion oI women
in Herodotus Ann Bergren notes the paradox oI womankind:
Women are like words, they are ‘metaphorical words,’ but they are also
original sources oI speech, speakers themselves. They are both passive
objects and active agents oI linguistic exchange…In this relation to the
linguistic and the social system, the woman…is paradoxically both
secondary and original, both passive and active, both a silent and a
speaking sign. (Bergren 1983, 76)
She draws on the work oI Levi-Strauss, who observes that in the practice oI marriage
exchange, women are traded between men as a communicative sign, yet the Iemale
herselI also generates her own signs.
These ideas resonate with both the Pandora-myth
oI Hesiod and the Ixion-myth oI Pythian 2. Pandora, as the price mankind must pay Ior
Iire, is the incarnation oI Zeus’ deception, a message oI retribution. As a divine creation,
she is a passive entity who embodies the various aspects oI the gods who contributed to
her making: Hephaestus’ craItsmanship, Athena’s artistic skills, Aphrodite’s beauty, and
Hermes’ trickery. But the very giIts that she represents also enable her to act oI her own
accord. Not only is she a “steep deception” oI Zeus, she is also given the capacity to
speak Ialsehoods and deceptions by Hermes (Erg. 78). She subsequently, oI her own
will, opens the jar that unleashes all evil onto the world (Erg. 94-95) and serves as the
prototype Ior woman, a bane Ior men. Thus Pandora originates as Zeus’ deception, but
Bergren 1983, 75.
her ability to act represents a combination oI her own agency as well as an embodiment
oI the gods’ exchange with mankind.
Similarly, Zeus creates the Hera-cloud in retribution Ior Ixion’s oIIense; the
cloud, as a pseudos, eIIectively serves as an act oI communication to Ixion. The Hera-
cloud, like Pandora, is not entirely a passive entity or an illusion; her seductive eIIect on
Ixion is powerIul and “real” enough Ior her and Ixion to couple and produce children.
While a creation oI Zeus, she is also an independent being whose agency and ability to
interact sexually with Ixion increasingly overtakes Zeus as the Iocus oI the mythical
narrative. By describing the Hera-cloud as a “lie” and a “bane,” Pindar calls attention to
her ability to cause deception and misery. No mere illusion, the Ialse-Hera, born as a
cloud, nevertheless attains enough tangibility to couple with Ixion and Ioster a line oI
descendants, with which the mythical digression concludes:
úνευ οi Χαρiτων τcκεν γoνον íπερφiαλον
µoνα καi µoνον οúτ’ cν uνδρuσι γερασφoρον οúτ’ cν θεeν νoµοις·
τoν oνuµαζε τρuφοισα Κcνταυρον. (42-44)
Without the Graces’ blessing, that unique mother bore a unique son, who was
overbearing and respected neither among men nor in the ways oI the gods. She
who reared him called him Kentauros.
At this point, Zeus’ hand has completely disappeared: just as Hera is occluded by Zeus,
Zeus, too, who has been mentioned only twice and each time in oblique cases (∆ιoς, 34;
Ζηνoς, 40), recedes to the background. Attention to Ixion as well, aIter a Iew reiterative
words about his punishment, yields to a Iocus on the Hera-cloud and her progeny. The
repetition oI µoνα/µoνον (43) stresses the singularity oI the Hera-cloud and her child
Kentauros, and, as MacLachlan observes, the absence oI the Graces Irom the birth, along
with the exclusion oI Kentauros Irom both mortal and godly realms Iurther accentuates
the isolation oI these Iigures.
Thus the Hera-cloud, originally a passive creation, is now an independent,
discrete entity. Ultimately, Iigures such as Pandora or the Hera-cloud embody a paradox:
by playing the dual roles oI message and speaker, they enable communicative acts by
Zeus, who in creating them as deceptions, metaphorically “speaks” them while absolving
himselI oI culpability Ior their trickery. By Iashioning these Iemale Iigures, Zeus ensures
conveyance oI punishment or retribution, but because these Iigures can speak and act Ior
themselves, he transIers the agency oI deception onto them. Thus do Pindar and Hesiod
Ieminize deception, Ior an initially male act oI Ialsehood becomes a Iemale act oI
To borrow the ideas oI Bergren and Levi-Strauss, Pandora and pseudo-Hera
are signs both passive, embodying Zeus’ message to mortals, and active, as agents oI
their own communication.
Pindar’s innovation lies in the incorporation oI this Iemale type into the ritualized
relationship oI xenia. Unlike Pandora, who is simply a retributive Iigure, the Hera-cloud
terminates a Iormalized relationship oI reciprocity between guest and host, a relationship
that serves as a metaphor Ior Pindar’s own relationship to his patron. In the context oI
Pindar’s odes, the creation oI a Iemale, third-party pseudos between guest-Iriends Zeus
and Ixion sheds light on both the poet’s metaphorical relationship oI xenia with his
patron, and the role oI gender in his characterizations oI truth, Ialsehood, and deception.
By externalizing Ialsehood Irom Zeus and Ixion’s guest-Iriendship in the Iorm oI a
seductive Iemale Iigure, Pindar implies that Ialsehood and deception do not belong in the
CI. MacLachlan 1993, 121: “Further, he |Ixion| and his oIIspring are isolated Irom human society, Irom
CI. Buxton 1982, 63-66, who suggests that seductive persuasion is the Iemale version oI dolos.
xenia he shares with his patron and secondarily implies that the Ieminine, as represented
by deceptive seduction, is external to the bounds oI proper guest-Iriendship. Pindar thus
exploits a model oI misogyny Iamiliar Irom the earlier tradition, re-Iormulating it to suit
his speciIically epinician mode oI poetry.
In several oI his mythical narratives, Pindar similarly points to a Iemale Iigure as
a source oI deception, oI the sort that corrupts or destroys sacred institutions such as
xenia or marriage. Perhaps the way has already been paved Ior him by Hesiod, who puts
the source oI both Ialsehood and truth in the mouths oI the Iemale Muses (Theog. 26-
or by Homer, whose Hera incorporates seduction in her deception oI Zeus in Iliad
14-15. Pindar oIten embellishes a tale oI seduction or inIidelity by partnering such
crimes with a deceptive element, thus adding another layer to the complicated puzzle oI
aletheia, pseudos, and xenia. He seems to do so only with Iemale seduction, leaving male
seduction largely Iree oI the anxieties associated with Ieminine wiles.
The Iirst example I will examine is Koronis in Pythian 3, whose story shares
many points oI similarity with Ixion’s and who, like the Hera-cloud, threatens a ritualized
relationship oI reciprocity with seduction and deception. Koronis, having conceived the
child oI Apollo, Ialls in love with another man and couples with him, unbeknownst to her
Iather. Apollo, however, detects her inIidelity and consequently sends his sister Artemis
to Iell Koronis with her arrows. The similarities between Koronis and Ixion appear at the
level oI verbal resonance: Pindar reIers to both Koronis’ and Ixion’s crimes as mental
Iolly (uµπλακiαισι φρενeν, Pyth. 3.13; cI. αi δuο δ’ uµπλακiαι, Pyth. 2.30), involving
love Ior something inappropriate. Koronis “was in love with what was distant” (qρατο
Yet Hesiod also names Zeus as the Muses’ Iather in line 29, just as Zeus mandates the creation oI
Pandora in Hesiod and the pseudo-Hera in Pythian 2. Zeus has a signiIicant connection with several Iemale
propagators oI deception.
τeν uπεoντων, Pyth. 3.20), while Ixion’s love Ior Hera is based on crazed irrationality
(µαινοµcναις φρασiν , 1ρας óτ’ cρuσσατο, Pyth. 2.26-27). Moreover, Pindar emphasizes
the proIoundly delusional lust oI each (uυuταν íπερuφανον, Pyth. 2.28; µεγuλαν uυuταν,
Beyond these verbal echoes, Koronis’ crime Iurther resembles Ixion’s in that hers
too occurs in the context oI a guest-host relationship, although a more subtle one. Pindar
provides very Iew details about Ischys, the man who diverts Koronis’ aIIections Irom
Apollo, but he does mention twice that her aIIair occurs with a xeinos (ξcνου, Pyth. 3.25;
ξεινiαν κοiταν, 32), a signiIicant repetition in light oI the paucity oI other details
concerning Ischys. In this context the term is generally translated “stranger” and reIlects
Pindar’s variation Irom the traditional myth in making Ischys a Ioreigner Irom Arcadia
(25) rather than a Iellow Thessalian like Koronis.
As Young and Burton note, this
innovation Iits into the general message oI the ode that one should love what is near, both
geographically and Iiguratively.
A side eIIect oI this innovation is that Ischys becomes
a guest-Iriend, presumably oI Koronis’ Iather, whose expected participation in a
diplomatic relationship oI exchange is implied when Pindar Iaults Koronis Ior coupling
with Ischys without her Iather’s knowledge (κρuβδαν πατρoς, 13). Furthermore, both
Koronis’ and Ixion’s sexual activities oIIend the gods and produce oIIspring, who are
borne oI an act oI deception.
It is around the issue oI deception that their stories diverge, Ior Ixion is the victim
oI a deception, while Koronis is the perpetrator oI one. Both stories center on sexual
Race 1986, 65 also notices this echo.
Burton 1962, 83; Young 1968, 35.
Burton 1962, 83; Young 1968, 36.
impropriety against a god, and in both stories, the transgressors are punished accordingly,
but in the one instance, inappropriate lust is punished with a deception, whereas in the
other, deception is part oI the crime. Ixion, despite his many Iaults, is depicted as
deceptive only with respect to the murder oI his Iather-in-law (οuκ úτερ τcχνας, 32), a
crime which, as I have noted, receives very little attention in the mythical narrative oI
Pythian 2. Koronis, on the other hand, is guilty oI deception as part oI her oIIense against
Apollo. Their respective crimes diIIer in that Ixion’s is against his host Zeus rather than
his would-be lover Hera, whereas Koronis’ oIIense is against her godly lover himselI.
Furthermore, in the Koronis myth the guest-host relationship is not between
Koronis and a god—indeed, Iemale participation in xenia would have been rare, almost
—but between the two mortals Ischys and Koronis’ Iather, whose sole
mention in line 13 serves to note his participation in a relationship oI alliance between
host and guest. Koronis violates this relationship by interIering in it and Iorging a
marriage alliance without her Iather’s approval.
Ixion’s and Koronis’ interactions with
the gods represent two diIIerent albeit closely related relationships: Ixion and Zeus are
engaged in a guest-host relationship while Koronis and Apollo are essentially married,
Ior they are involved in a binding sexual relationship whose trust Koronis violates by
sleeping with Ischys.
Marriage and xenia resemble one another in that each comprises
Herman 1987, 34 discusses the role oI social status in the guest-host relationship and notes that
“ritualised Iriendship appears as an overwhelmingly upper-class institution…People oI humbler standing
are signiIicantly rare. Non-Iree men are absent altogether. And women are extremely rare. There are
remarkably Iew reIerences to male-Iemale alliances.”
See Herman 1987, 24-25 Ior a discussion oI how a xeinos might Ioster and encourage a marriage.
OI course Apollo, as a god, never Iormally marries Koronis, but the possessive authority he exercises
over her represents the closest approximation to marriage that can occur between a god and a mortal. CI.
Il. 9.336 where Achilles laments the loss oI Briseis, his úλοχος, a word that evokes marriage, even though
Achilles and Briseis have no Iormal relationship. As a union between a mortal woman and an immortal
god, Koronis’ and Apollo’s relationship operates on a double standard oI Iidelity. Apollo expects
a set oI expectations and reciprocal obligations, but the diIIerent dynamics oI xenia and
marriage make Ior diIIerent modes oI violation. The key diIIerence between Ixion and
Koronis is oI course one oI gender, and it is primarily this diIIerence that explains the
points oI divergence between their otherwise similar stories. While both violate xenia,
only Koronis, as a woman, does so through deception and seduction, thus embodying the
gender paradigms oI ancient myth.
The secrecy that characterizes Koronis’ relations with her Iather extends to her
interactions with Apollo as well (úθεµiν τε δoλον, 32) and Iurther marks her crime as not
merely one oI delusion but also oI deception. This characteristic oI deception enters into
two crimes, against her Iather and against Apollo, and thus corrupts two sacred
relationships. The Iirst is the relationship oI xenia between Koronis’ Iather and Ischys,
who is presumably a guest in her Iather’s house. Koronis, as a woman, does not have a
part in guest-host relations, nor does she have the authority to Iorge a marriage without
the knowledge or consent oI her Iather.
Moreover, as Pindar tells the story, Ischys is
not culpable in any way Ior his actions, and indeed, Pindar plays down his agency in the
aIIair, even delaying the sole mention oI his name until line 31. Instead, Koronis is the
constant Iocal point in this tale oI wrongdoing. She violates the unspoken agreement
between Apollo and herselI that she will remain IaithIul to him while pregnant with his
monogamy Irom Koronis, even though he would expect no such devotion Irom another immortal (cI. Lyons
2003, 97 n. 21 on marriage in Hesiod: “The gods already practice marriage oI a sort, but it is not Ior the
most part the enduring institution known to mortals, e.g, 1απετoς …, qγuγετο Κλυµcνην, Theog. 507-
CI. the comments on “wild women” by Carnes 1996, 31. Carnes argues that Peleus’ marriage to Thetis
in Nemean 4 imposes a custom oI civilization on the untamed Iringes oI the earth. Marriage, as an act oI
“civilization,” suppresses women “who must be exchanged by others, not by themselves.” Koronis, in
taking this act oI exchange into her own hands, would qualiIy as an inappropriate, even untamed woman.
CI. also the plethora oI scholarly work on marriage in ancient Greek society, including Finley 1981, 233-
245; Garland 1990, 210-241; and Finkelberg 2005, 90-108.
Her actions recall the paradox oI woman described by Bergren, Ior by
contravening the expectations oI bridal passivity, Koronis’ deception oI Apollo causes
disorder in their marriage, which has obligations and expectations oI reciprocity similar
to those oI xenia.
The emphasis on Koronis’ deception is clear, as is the role it plays in her
detection. Apollo’s omniscience is another Pindaric departure Irom the earlier version oI
the myth in which a raven inIorms Apollo oI Koronis’ inIidelity. The intended
signiIicance oI this change is debatable,
but it is clear that Apollo’s knowledge oI
Koronis’ deception is oI key importance to the tale. Moreover, the way Pindar describes
Apollo’s omniscience is signiIicant:
οuδ’ cλαθε σκοπoν· cν δ’ úρα µηλοδoκç Πυθeνι τoσσαις úιεν ναοi
Λοξiας, κοινuνι παρ’ εuθυτuτç γνeµαν πιθeν,
πuντα iσuντι νoç· ψευδcων δ’ οuχ úπτεται, κλcπτει τc µιν
οu θεoς οu βροτoς cργοις οúτε βουλαiς. (Pyth. 3.27-30)
She did not escape the watcher, but in sheep-receiving Pytho, the king oI
the temple, Loxias, happened to perceive her, entrusting his opinion to his
most straightIorward conIidant, his mind which knows all things. He does
not embrace Ialsehoods, and neither god nor mortal deceives him in deed
CI. Burton 1962, 83: “Coronis’ sin was that she lay with a mortal while pregnant by a god.”
CI. Roth 1993, 3 on the relationship between Klytaimestra and Agamemnon in the Oresteia: “Aside
Irom the Iact that like Helen and the lion oI the parable she |Klytaimestra| is an outsider brought into the
house who with time encompasses her host’s destruction, her status as a wiIe is analogous to that oI a guest,
Ior marriage and xenia were parallel social institutions. The basic Iunction oI each was to bring an outsider
into the kin-group, and both Iorms oI relationship entailed the exchanging oI giIts and the Iormation oI a
hereditary bond imposing mutual obligations between Iamilies.”
See Young 1968, 37-38 Ior a discussion oI this divergence. Citing Burton 1962, 84, Fennell ad loc., and
Wilamowitz 1922, 281, Young argues that Pindar alludes to the Hesiodic tale oI the raven with the word
σκοπoς (27), but chooses not to go into Iurther detail, as the aetiological nature oI the raven-myth does not
Iit into Pindar’s overall scheme in Pythian 3. I am skeptical as to the allusive nature oI σκοπoς, which I
take to be a direct reIerence to Apollo’s omniscience. CI. Burton 1962, 84, who observes that the absence
oI the raven emphasizes Apollo’s reliance on his own omniscience Ior the truth oI Koronis’ inIidelity.
Pindar characterizes Apollo’s distance Irom Ialsehood not as a reIusal to craIt Ialsehoods,
which an extra-contextual translation oI ψευδcων δ’ οuχ úπτεται might suggest, but rather
as an ability to recognize Ialsehood.
Again, Ialsehood is Iocalized through the
perceiver, as with Ixion in Pythian 2, but this time, the Iault oI Koronis as the Iemale
craIter is equally emphasized.
Female seduction is central to both cases oI deception. By contrast, no sexual
deception occurs in the story oI Tantalos and Pelops in either oI the versions Pindar
proIIers in Olympian 1, even though Poseidon’s sexual attraction to Pelops is a key
component oI Pindar’s retelling. Seduction by a male Iigure, as I will discuss later,
contains no deceptive element. Thus the pseudos oI Zeus’ creation is a Iemale Iigure
intended to allure Ixion, yet because this Iigure is capable oI acting oI her own will,
seductive actions are imputed to her rather than to Zeus. In Ixion’s story, although the
agent oI the deception is a male Iigure,
the deception takes the Iorm oI a woman.
Similarly, Koronis, a woman, deceives Apollo by seducing another man. Although the
two cases are not exact parallels—Koronis, aIter all, does not deceive Apollo by seducing
him—in each case, nevertheless, Iemale seduction is closely associated or even
coincident with deception. Moreover, Pindar downplays Ischys’ role while highlighting
Koronis’ culpable deceptiveness (κρuβδαν πατρoς, 13; οuδ’ cλαθε σκοπoν, 27; úθεµιν
δoλον, 31), thus departing signiIicantly Irom earlier versions oI the myth where Ischys is
Pace Gildersleeve 1885, 272, who interprets more ambiguity in the phrase: “Neither deceiving nor
I.e., Zeus, and, indirectly, Ixion. See my discussion above.
presented as a rival to Apollo Ior Koronis’ aIIections.
Pindar recasts the myth to
emphasize the central role oI speciIically Iemale seduction and deception.
The alliance oI Iemale seduction and deception becomes ever clearer as we
examine the other examples in Pindar, which more than once show the tendency Ior
mythical Iemale Iigures to compound their wrongIully seductive activities with
deception. In Nemean 5 Hippolyta is a Ioil Ior the virtuous Peleus, whose marriage to
Thetis serves as the mythical paragon oI harmonious relations between man and god, the
Iorging oI an alliance with Zeus Xenios as its overseer. Zeus’ decision to marry Peleus to
a sea nymph speciIically rests on the observations he makes as the god who protects the
guest-host relationship (34-35). His approval alone, however, is not suIIicient, Ior he
must obtain Poseidon’s consent. The marriage oI Peleus and Thetis thus represents the
culmination oI Peleus’ respect Ior the guest-host relationship, Zeus’ recognition oI this
respect, and the cooperation oI Zeus and Poseidon to reward it. Peleus and Thetis’ union
represents and results Irom collaborative relationships on several levels: on the mortal
level Peleus’ upstanding behavior toward his xeinos earns him the reward oI marriage;
on the divine level the marriage cannot occur until Zeus conIers with his brother
Poseidon, whose broad inIluence is encapsulated in line 37 with the summary oI his
travels Irom Aigai to the Isthmos. The spirit oI collaboration that pervades the myth oI
Peleus and Thetis explains its Irequency in odes about Aigina, whose centrality in
commercial aIIairs oIten leads Pindar to note its reputation Ior xenia.
Hymn. Hom. Ap. 210. Gantz 1993, 91 even calls this allusion to Ischys a “clash between Apollo and
Ischys,” thus investing Ischys with a great deal more agency in the Homeric Hymn than he has in Pythian
For xenia in Aigina, cI. Ol. 8.20-23, Nem. 3.2, Nem. 4.12, Nem. 5.8. I should also note that Aigina is
the mythical homeland oI the Aiakidai, which Iurther accounts Ior Peleus’ presence in odes to Aiginetan
victors (e.g., Nem. 4, Nem. 5, Isthm. 8).
Pindar introduces the story oI Peleus and Thetis with Peleus’ interactions with
Hippolyta. Although married to Akastos, Hippolyta attempts to seduce Peleus, but he
reIuses her advances, Iearing retribution Irom Zeus Xenios (33-34). Hippolyta’s reaction
is to recruit her husband Ior an act oI vengeance, claiming Ialsely that Peleus attempted to
seduce her. Unlike Ixion, who succumbs to the charms oI a deceptive Iemale Iigure and
thereby disregards the importance oI his xenia with Zeus, Peleus resists such a woman
out oI respect Ior xenia. As with Ixion Pindar’s narrative oI Ialsehood Iocalizes not
through the agent oI deception, but through the one who experiences it: Peleus is
rewarded Ior his virtue, but Hippolyta disappears Irom the narrative without a word as to
her punishment or subsequent Iate.
In many ways Hippolyta parallels Ixion while Peleus runs counter to him, Ior she,
like Ixion, engages in a lustIul attraction that would harm a guest-host relationship, this
time between her husband and Peleus, rather than between herselI and a guest.
have pointed out above, however, Pindar does not characterize Ixion as deceptive,
whereas Hippolyta is emphatically deceptive: she is sneaky (δoλç, 26), deceitIul even in
seduction (παρφαµcνα λιτuνευεν, 32),
and deItly persuasive, convincing her husband
to take retaliatory action Ior Ialse charges (πεiσαισ’ uκοiταν ποικiλοις βουλεuµασιν, ,
ψεuσταν δc ποιητoν συνcπαξε λoγον, 28).
Furthermore, these contrasting depictions oI
Carnes 1996, 46 also notes this omission.
Hippolyta is not cast as directly betraying her own xeinos because, as I have noted, participation by
women in xenia is very rare. See Herman 1987, 34.
CI. Miller 1982, 117, who observes that the participle παρφαµcνα here has the Iorce oI erotic
persuasion, but notes that the other Pindaric uses oI παρuφηµι connote misspeaking or insincere utterance.
CI. Slater 1969 s.v. πuρφαµι. CI. McClure 1999, 63.
Again, cI. Miller 1982, 117, whose analysis oI πuρφασις in Nemean 8.32 concludes that both senses oI
the verb παρuφηµι, persuasion and misrepresentation, are present. I believe a similar combination oI
two similar wrongdoers, Ixion and Hippolyta, cannot be Iully attributed to diIIering
circumstances, Ior Pindar does not inIorm us oI any oI the measures Ixion surely must
have taken to conceal his lust Ior Hera Irom Zeus. The characterization oI Hippolyta as
tricky in Nemean 5 is consistent with her characterization in Nemean 4 (δολiαις ,
), yet the Peleus myth serves an entirely diIIerent purpose in that ode,
where Peleus’ rejection oI Hippolyta is not an emphasized prerequisite oI his marriage to
Thetis. Although Pindar does not depict her Iavorably, it is notable that Hippolyta is
credited with techne, a term that suggests her talent, intelligence, and resourceIulness.
The use oI this term, which elsewhere is used positively oI artistry and skill,
indicates what is so loathsome about deception and seduction: they pervert or misuse
ordinarily positive, lauded qualities such as artIulness (cI. ποικiλοις, Ol. 1.28), cunning,
and intelligence. Deception is driven not by madness oI any sort, but by cool rationality,
a trait that would normally be Iavorable.
Gender is the key Iactor in coupling deception with seduction. In all oI the myths
I have discussed above—Ixion in Pythian 2, Koronis in Pythian 3, and Peleus in Nemean
5—Iemale Iigures and the Ialsehood they enact or even embody are central to the
disruption oI a guest-host relationship. While the ramiIications Ior this disruption vary,
in each story a Iemale Iigure is the instrument oI corrupted relations between guest and
meanings occurs in the participle in Nem. 5.32, although Carnes 1996, 44 argues that παρφαµcνα reIers to
Hippolyta’s impropriety rather than insincerity.
This similarity appears to be one oI the Iew between the two treatments oI the Peleus and Thetis myth in
Nemeans 4 and 5. See Carnes 1996 Ior an examination oI how the two odes and their diIIering emphases
work together. Carnes 1996, 32 argues that Peleus employs the trickery that characterizes Hippolyta and
bases this argument partly on a translation oI χρησuµενος in Nem. 4.58 as “making use oI.” I do not Iind
this part oI his argument convincing, as there is no reIerence in Nemean 4 to any sort oI trickery used by
Peleus. I preIer instead to Iollow Slater’s suggested translation oI “experience” Ior the participle
E.g., Ol. 7.35, Ol. 7.50, Pyth. 12.6. For other examples, see Slater 1969 s.v. τcχνα.
host, even when it is a male Iigure like Ixion who violates xenia. As JeIIrey Carnes has
observed, Hippolyta in Nemeans 4 and 5
threatens the whole system oI exchange oI women and the Name oI the
Father…The consequences oI this are represented in immediate, concrete
terms: in Iemale hands, language is harmIul, exchange—including
marriage and xenia—is queered, and men must suIIer unjustly. (Carnes
Carnes’ study notes Hippolyta’s disruptive role in relationship exchanges and Iocuses on
her “masculine” sexual aggression
when she hijacks, to disastrous ends, the typically
male role in the exchange oI women: “|Women| must be exchanged by others, not by
His observations about the corruptive role oI women in the Hippolyta
myth can be applied to the Koronis myth oI Pythian 3 and the Ixion myth oI Pythian 2,
Ior Koronis, as I have pointed out, disrupts various relationships by arranging her own
marriage while the Hera-cloud, a Iemale embodiment oI pseudos, cements the end oI
Ixion and Zeus’ xenia.
I have endeavored with these examinations to explain Pindar’s persistent stance
against Ialsehood and deception. One recurrent reason is the proIound eIIect oI verbal
and nonverbal Ialsehoods on those who experience them. These eIIects are highlighted
by the negative consequences Ior those who are duped (e.g., Ixion) and by the positive
consequences Ior those who recognize and resist the Ialsehood (e.g., Peleus). Underlying
all these examples is the idea that the toxicity oI Ialsehood and deception lies in their
disruption oI the guest-host relationship, either between poet and laudandus, or between
Carnes 1996, 26: “Hippolyte displays masculine traits in her combination oI sexual desire and
aggression (the inverted, or projected, version oI the Amazons’ dual status as libidinally- and aggressively-
Carnes 1996, 31. Carnes ties this disruption to a Iemale misuse oI language. I am hesitant to espouse
Carnes’ argument in its entirety, largely because his resolutely structural and psychoanalytical approaches,
I have Iound, can result in distorted interpretations oI literary works.
the mythical Iigures oI Pindar’s digressions. The question oI why Ialsehood and
deception are to be shunned, despite their useIulness in craIting elegant poetry, is settled
by an examination oI their eIIects on sacred relationships like xenia or marriage. Finally,
Pindar’s use and adaptation oI Hesiod’s Pandora in seductive Iemale Iigures such as the
Hera-cloud, Koronis, and Hippolyta demonstrate how he carves out a niche Ior himselI in
Greek literature by borrowing earlier gender paradigms but assimilating them to his
epinician models oI truth, Ialsehood, and guest-Iriendship.
E EE EXCURSUS XCURSUS XCURSUS XCURSUS: :: : M MM MALE ALE ALE ALE S SS SEDUCTION EDUCTION EDUCTION EDUCTION
My claims thus Iar have rested on examples oI seduction instigated by women,
and I have shown how Pindar employs the trope oI the deceptive woman to illustrate
negative models oI sacred relationships like xenia or marriage. In some cases he adjusts
traditional versions oI myth to create a model oI delicate reciprocity endangered by a
Iemale seductress. OI course, other Iorces can endanger xenia, but deception is a key
one, and its incarnation as seduction is present only in Iemale Iigures. Seduction by
Pindar’s ale Iigures is not characterized as deceptive: when Aegisthus seduces
Clytemnestra in Pythian 11 and Jason seduces Medea in Pythian 4, neither is potrayed in
the same negative, speciIically deceptive light as Hippolyta, Koronis, or the Hera-cloud.
These two stories provide two models oI male seduction, one which disrupts a marriage,
while the other Iorges one. As diIIerent as the two cases may be, each strengthens my
claim that it is speciIically Iemale seduction that violates xenia in Pindar. Even in the
case oI Ixion, whose lust Ior Hera terminates his good standing with Zeus, the Iinal nail
in his coIIin is in the Iorm oI a seductive Iemale Iigure, the Hera-cloud. The equation
Pindar draws between Ieminine seduction and deception demonstrates how gender is an
additional component in the illustrative oppositions oI epinician poetry: to
truth/Ialsehood, obligation/negligence, and reciprocity/inequity may be added
male/Iemale. In discussing gender, I am cautious to avoid oversimpliIication—in no way
is Pindar a simple misogynist, Ior his mythical Iemale Iigures are not universally depicted
in the same negative light as those I examine here; rather, I aim to explore and examine
how Pindar employs gender paradigms such as Iemale enigma to illustrate the more
perplexing Iacets oI deception.
The case oI Clytemnestra demonstrates how closely women and deception are
linked. Even though she is a victim oI seduction rather than herselI a seductress, she is
still marked by her destructive and deceptive activities while her male seducer has neither
oI these traits. Pindar’s depiction oI the Agamemnon myth diIIers markedly Irom
previous versions by giving prominence to Clytemnestra’s role in the destruction oI
Atreus’ house. Certainly she does not enjoy a reputation Ior good housewiIery in
previous versions oI the myth; in Homer she is the Ioil Ior the model wiIe oI Penelope,
and her culpability Ior Agamemnon’s death is a resounding theme: she is guilty oI
trickery (Od. 2.35, 4.91-92), she is a partner in Agamemon’s murder (Od. 3.232-235),
and she is also blamed Ior Cassandra’s death (Od. 11.405-434). But Homer places equal
iI not greater blame on Aegisthus, who stole the wiIe oI another man beIore killing him,
explicitly disregarding the advice oI Hermes (Od. 1.32-43). Clytemnestra is in nowise
guiltless, but Aegisthus’ culpability is equally stressed. By contrast, iconographic
evidence oI the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. shows Clytemnestra playing a central
role in Agamemnon’s death; several terra cotta plaques Irom Gortyn and shield-bands
Irom Aegina and Olympia depict her wielding the murder weapon,
Iaults her Ior her treachery, but not Ior committing the act itselI.
Pindar is the “Iirst literary source to move Clytemnestra Iully to center stage,
making the initiative and control oI the situation hers (as well as the deed?), with
Aegisthus reduced to a supporting role.”
He accomplishes this in part through a ring-
structured narrative that begins in medias res with the death oI Agamemnon, then
recounts the rescue oI Orestes and the death oI Cassandra:
τoν δq φονευοµcνου πατρoς Aρσινoα Κλυταιµqστρας
χειρeν úπο κρατερuν cκ δoλου τροφoς úνελε δυσπενθcος,
oπoτε ∆αρδανiδα κoραν Πριuµου Κασσuνδραν πολι( χαλκ( σuν
ψυχµ πoρευ’ Aχcροντος uκτuν παρ’ εúσκιον
νηλqς γυνu. (Pyth. 11.17-22)
|…Orestes| whom indeed, when his Iather was murdered, the nurse
Arsinoe took Irom under Clytemnestra’s mighty hands
away Irom her
grievous treachery when she with a gray sword
made the Dardanian
daughter oI Priam, Cassandra, go to the shadowy promontory oI Acheron
with the soul oI Agamemnon, pitiless woman.
The eIIect oI this narrative order is to highlight Iirst the horriIic events Ior which
Clytemnestra is responsible and Ior which she is consequently characterized as guileIul
(cκ δoλου…δυσπενθcος, 18) and pitiless (νηλqς γυνu, 22). The syntax Iurther
Gantz 1993, 668-669. CI. Prag 1991, 243 n. 3 Ior a list and Iuller description oI the material
Gantz 1993, 672. There is, however, supposition that Stesichorus’ Oresteia Iirst promotes Clytemnestra
to central status; cI. Prag 1991.
See Finglass 2007, 35-36 Ior a tidy presentation oI the events oI the Agamemnon myth, both in
chronological order and in the order presented by Pythian 11.
Or “when his Iather was murdered by the mighty hands oI Klytaimestra.” CI. Finglass 2007, 65. The
ambiguity oI the phrase χειρeν úπο κρατερuν—does it reIer to Agamemnon’s slaying or to the near murder
oI Orestes?—serves to highlight Klytaimestra’s agency in both deeds oI destruction.
There has been some debate as to whether Klytaimestra’s murder weapon was a sword or an axe. See
Prag 1991 Ior a summary oI arguments on either side oI this debate.
emphasizes this characterization: νηλqς γυνu is conspicuous both Ior concluding a
sentence and Ior beginning a line.
This doubly condemnatory depiction oI Clytemnestra is ostensibly mitigated by
the subsequent rhetorical question positing two alternative reasons Ior Clytemnestra’s
πoτερoν νιν úρ’ 1φιγcνει’ cπ’ Εuρiπç
σφαχθεiσα τqλε πuτρας cκνισεν βαρυπuλαµον óρσαι χoλον;
q cτcρç λcχεϊ δαµαζοµcναν cννυχοι πuραγον κοiται; (Pyth. 11.22-25)
Did Iphigeneia, slaughtered at the Euripos Iar Irom her homeland, goad
her to awaken her heavy-handed anger? Or did nightly couplings seduce
her, conquered by the bed oI another?
Having previously painted Clytemnestra a treacherous woman, Pindar suggests motherly
revenge as a motivation Ior her violence. Maternal concern, however, is incongruous
with the danger she poses to Orestes, which Pindar describes in the previous lines (Pyth.
11.17-18). Indeed, even the initial word oI this rhetorical question, πoτερον, signals to
the audience the imminent appearance oI an alternative,
the enticements oI adultery.
Pindar diminishes Aegisthus’ agency in this act oI adultery, thus presenting a
Iemale victim oI seduction without a male seducer. He uses the language oI seduction in
the verb πuραγον, whose preIix πuρ- denotes something done “‘amiss’ or ‘wrongly’”
and is thus comparable to the verb πuρφαµι, used oI Hippolyta’s beguiling speech at
Nemean 5.32 (παρφαµcνα λιτuνευεν, 32). Yet the language Iocalizes through
Clytemnestra’s experience rather than any person responsible Ior instigating it:
Clytemnestra’s seduction is eIIected by “nightly couplings” (cννυχοι…κοiται, 25) rather
than Aegisthus, who is not even named as the agent oI Clytemnestra’s seduction or
CI. Finglass 2007, 96 ad 22 (πoτερον).
Miller 1982, 117.
submission (δαµαζοµcναν, 24). To emphasize her culpability even Iurther, Pindar reIers
to her adultery as the “most hateIul Iault oI young wives” (τo δc νcαις uλoχοις , cχθιστον
uµπλuκιον, 25-26). Clytemnestra’s treachery is thus attributed to her own Iailure to resist
the allures oI seduction.
Aegisthus’ characterization lies in sharp contrast. He, unlike Clytemnestra, is not
portrayed as deceptive, Ior he has not misled Clytemnestra’s senses the way the Ialse
Hera-cloud does Ixion’s in Pythian 2, nor has he oIIered the same overly pleasurable
allurements as the Hera-cloud’s “sweet lie” (ψεiδος γλυκu, Pyth. 2.37) or “beautiIul
bane” (καλoν πqµα, Pyth. 2.40). Furthermore, Aegisthus displays none oI the conniving
wiles oI Hippolyta in Nemeans 4 and 5. Instead, the manner oI his seduction is presented
as dominance rather than trickery (δαµαζοµcναν, 24). Clytemnestra herselI diIIers Irom
male victims oI seduction, both the impervious (Peleus) and the corruptible (Ixion), Ior
she makes no attempt to resist. In Homer, by contrast, Clytemnestra initially resists
Aegisthus’ advances, succumbing only when her guardian is slain (Od. 3.263-275).
Pindar places all culpability Ior death and destruction on Clytemnestra, thus presenting
women seducers and women seduced as equally guilty oI deception and treachery.
While Medea in Pythian 4 and Clytemnestra in Pythian 11 are superIicially
dissimilar (the Iormer is a heroine, the latter, a villainess), both Iigures experience male
seduction and when compared to Iemale seducers, provide evidence Ior a Iundamental
diIIerence between seduction oI a woman and seduction by a woman. Female seducers
are marked by the language oI deception and trickery, while male seducers lack this
aspect oI deception and characteristically enjoy active and willing participation by the
woman being seduced. Pindar’s Medea, who helps her guest-Iriends the Argonauts in
Pythian 4 and is lauded at Olympian 13.53-54 Ior choosing a husband in deIiance oI her
Iather, is a Iar cry Irom the Euripidean villainess and Irom the other Iemale characters oI
Pindar’s odes. What prompts her helpIulness is her seduction by Jason, which
Iundamentally diIIers Irom the trickery exercised by the Iemale seducers oI Ixion and
A key diIIerence lies in the role oI Jason, whose seduction oI Medea is instigated
and aided by Aphrodite. She provides Jason with an iynx-love-charm (Pyth. 4.213-216)
along with the requisite rhetoric necessary Ior using the iynx (λιτuς τ’ cπαοιδuς, 217).
The purpose oI this charm is to remove Medea’s Iilial piety and instill in her a longing Ior
Greece (óφρα Μηδεiας τοκcων uφcλοιτο αiδe, ποθεινu δ’ 1λλuς αuτuν , cν φρασi
καιοµcναν δονcοι µuστιγι Πειθοiς, 218-219). These lines point up several key
diIIerences between the seduction oI Medea and other seductions, Ior hers is marked by
persuasion (Πειθοiς) rather than deception,
and the immediate result oI Medea’s
seduction is a desire Ior a new home and homeland rather than Ior Jason.
case Aphrodite and Jason replace Medea’s Iamilial loyalties with allegiance to a Ioreign
Jason’s seduction oI Medea is motivated not solely by his own attraction to her,
but also by his quest Ior the golden Ileece, whereas seductions by women serve only their
own sexual desires. Aphrodite’s aid to Jason is part oI a greater mission than mere sexual
On the iynx, see Gow 1934 and Faraone 1993.
In addition to Pyth. 4.219, Peitho personiIied appears three times in Pindar’s extant poetry (Pyth. 9.39,
Fr. 122.2, Fr. 123.14), each time in association with sexual desire and pleasure.
While both persuasion and deception oIten have the similar goal oI dissuading someone Irom a usual
course oI action in Iavor oI one less conventional, persuasion does not have the same negative associations
with misdirection. CI. Buxton 1982, 63-66, who examines the ambiguous distinction between peitho and
dolos in Greek tragedy and points out that peitho tends to be characterized by Irankness, whereas dolos
subverts the normal values oI the polis.
conquest, which explains why her actions here resemble Hera’s earlier motivation oI the
τoν δc παµπειθq γλυκuν qµιθcοισιν πoθον cνδαιεν 1ρα
ναoς Aργοiς, µq τινα λειπoµενον
τuν uκiνδυνον παρu µατρi µcνειν αieνα πcσσοντ’, uλλ’ cπi καi
φuρµακον κuλλιστον cuς uρετuς úλιξιν εíρcσθαι σuν úλλοις. (Pyth.
Hera kindled that all-persuasive sweet longing in the demigods Ior the
ship Argo so that no one would be leIt behind to stay with his mother,
nursing a liIe without danger, but would discover with his other comrades,
even at the price oI death, the most beautiIul means to his achievement.
The conjoining oI persuasion and desire outlined here (παµπειθq γλυκuν…πoθον, 184)
resembles the experience oI Medea (ποθεινu δ’ 1λλuς αuτuν , cν φρασi καιοµcναν δονcοι
µuστιγι Πειθοiς, 218-219). Just as Hera instills in the Argonauts “all-persuasive
longing” Ior the Argo rather than their parents, so the iynx oI Aphrodite dissolves
Medea’s Iilial ties and Iills her instead with a yearning Ior Hellas. The eIIicacy oI Hera’s
inIluence relies on eliciting the same reactions oI sexual desire: dismissal oI what one
would normally espouse in Iavor oI something unknown and potentially dangerous. The
similarities between Aphrodite’s and Hera’s respective actions demonstrate the
applicability oI persuasion outside oI sexual contexts: unlike the deceptive seduction oI,
Ior example, Koronis and Hippolyta, persuasion is employed in situations where an
individual act oI sexual conquest is not the sole or primary goal. The result oI persuasion
is an incorporation oI Medea’s and the Argonauts’ skills into the larger goals oI Jason’s
Persuasion, unlike deception, changes Medea’s perspective but does not put her
on uneven Iooting with Jason. Medea and Jason enter into a partnership whose mutuality
and parity are stressed by the language oI sharing and reciprocity: καταiνησuν τε κοινoν
γuµον , γλυκuν cν uλλuλοισι µεiξαι (“And they agreed to contract with one another a
sweet marriage by mutual consent,” 222-223). This idea oI consensual seduction is
subsequently reiterated when the poet says that Jason “stole Medea with her own help”
(κλcψεν τε Μqδειαν σuν αuτµ, 250). When Pindar describes Medea’s help Ior Jason’s
encounter with the Iire-breathing bulls, he reIers to Medea as a xeina (πiρ δc νιν οuκ
coλει παµφαρµuκου ξεiνας cφετµαiς, “The Iire did not cause him to waver because oI the
commands oI the host-woman, all-powerIul in magic,” 233), a clear reIerence to her
ethnic alterity, but also an encapsulation oI the aid she provides to her non-Colchian
guests. The term connotes the relationship oI reciprocal beneIit in which she and Jason
participate and reinIorces the spirit oI mutual consent that characterizes their marriage.
This seduction oI Medea diIIers Iundamentally Irom the seductions oI Ixion and Peleus,
Ior it Iorges a guest-host relationship, whereas the seductions oI Ixion and Peleus
represent dissolution oI one.
This model oI seduction thus serves as a metaphor Ior Pindar’s conception oI
epinician poetry. As the target oI persuasion, Medea resembles the audience oI the poet,
who, as a xeinos, ingratiates the victor with the audience. Medea too is a xeina, but on
the other side oI the guest-host relationship, the one persuaded. The goal oI exerting
peitho on Medea is to procure her aid Ior Jason and the Argonauts. Thus, when depicting
Jason’s seduction oI Medea, the poet portrays it as persuasion instead oI manipulation or
Iorce, incorporating it as part oI a guest-host relationship oI reciprocity between speaker
and addressee. In this analogy, then, the poet is not a charlatan who presents a slanted
point oI view, but a Iorger oI guest-host relations between himselI, victor, and audience;
his rhetoric is meant to persuade the audience to participate somehow in an honorable
system oI give and take that solidiIies relationships and, in the case oI Medea, contributes
to lawIul order and rule in Iolcos.
C CC CONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS
I began this chapter with an examination oI Olympian 1, arguing that oppositions
between truth and Ialsehood could be understood through the lens oI xenia and other
relationships oI obligation. To that end my investigations have revealed that aletheia is
depicted as a stabilizing Iorce in ritualized Iriendships. As such, it is connected to the
poet’s epinician purpose since his relationship to the victor is portrayed as one oI
Iriendship or guest-Iriendship which entails reciprocal obligation. On the other hand
deception and Ialsehood cause a rupture in the Iormalized and ordered relationships oI
marriage and xenia, which accounts Ior the Irequent disavowals oI Ialsehood spoken by
Pindar in his poetry. His depictions oI Ialsehood and trickery emphasize the destructive
role such Iorces play on recognized institutions oI order such as xenia. Furthermore,
trickery and Ialsehood have associations with Iemale seduction and treachery and oIten
characterize and are characterized by dishonorable Iemale characters, even to the point
where male deception is transIerred to a Iemale agent, as in the case oI Zeus and pseudo-
Hera. Such depiction oI Iemale seduction adheres to some extent to dominant paradigms
oI women in antiquity,
but Pindar portrays these women as dangers to sacred
institutions and thus exploits gender paradigms to illustrate the perils oI deception to
societal stability. While it is intuitively known that Ialsehood and deception are
undesirable qualities and that women were oIten villainized in antiquity, what my
CI. McClure 1999, 32-69 who argues that verbal genres are gendered and that seductive persuasion is a
speciIically Iemale mode oI speech.
discussion, I hope, Iacilitates is a deeper understanding oI how Pindar explains their
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER F FF FOUR OUR OUR OUR: :: : W WW WHAT IS HAT IS HAT IS HAT IS T TT TRUTH TO RUTH TO RUTH TO RUTH TO A AA AESC ESC ESC ESCHYLUS HYLUS HYLUS HYLUS? ?? ?
V VV VERBAL ERBAL ERBAL ERBAL A AA ALETHEIA LETHEIA LETHEIA LETHEIA
In previous chapters I observed that Aeschylus Iollows Homer’s lead in depicting
truth as a primarily verbal entity by reserving the term uλqθεια and its cognates Ior verbal
depictions oI truth, whereas Pindar distinguishes between uλqθεια and its verbal
representations, even at times implying that words can only approximate the truth. The
two poets’ diIIerent uses oI terms Ior truth reIlect the diIIerences between their two
genres, lyric and tragedy: in epinician lyric the “poet”
is solely responsible Ior
delivering the truth to his audience, and he depicts himselI as having unique access to this
truth, whereas in tragedy no poetic persona is apparent, and the contexts oI truth and
Ialsehood are acts oI communication between speakers and addressees. That Aeschylus
adheres to a largely verbal model oI truth and Ialsehood is only appropriate since verbal
exchange lies at the heart oI Greek tragedy. While there is an overarching plot and an
implied concomitant narrative, the soul oI this plot and narrative are in the verbal
interactions that occur between characters. Aeschylean truth must be a particularly
verbal concept because the characters in tragedy rely on one another to learn the truth.
O OO OPPOSITIONS PPOSITIONS PPOSITIONS PPOSITIONS
This is not to say that Aeschylus treats truth as an entirely subjective entity
Iormed by some sort oI dialectic that constructs the truth through a series oI question-
and-answer sessions between interlocutors. Instead the dialogue between characters
By which I mean, oI course, the poetic persona reIlected in the odes.
reIlects a search Ior a truth that is not Iictive, a truth that is careIully speciIied oIten by
opposition to the nebulousness oI dreams, hopes, or illusions. In some ways Aeschylean
truth has more speciIicity than Homer’s, since Aeschylus contextualizes truth and
Ialsehood in terms oI such contrasts.
When the Chorus oI the Agamemnon listen to
Cassandra’s ravings, they recognize that she speaks the truth, as opposed to a mere
semblance oI it:
τqν µcν Θυcστου δαiτα παιδεiων κρεeν
ξυνqκα καi πcφρικα, καi φoβος µ’ cχει
κλuοντ’ uληθeς οuδcν cξpκασµcνα. (Ag. 1242-1244)
I understand the Ieast oI Thyestes on the Ilesh oI his children and I
shudder, and Iear takes hold oI me as I hear it truly told and not in images.
The Chorus respond to Cassandra’s perceptions about the house oI Atreus. Despite her
well-known curse oI incomprehensibility, the Chorus do indeed understand her here as
she describes an event Iamiliar to them in plain words devoid oI enigmatic metaphors.
Her words have so vividly expressed the Iate oI Thyestes that the Chorus equate her
words to the truth rather than a semblance oI it. The Chorus’ words hold two major
implications: they equate Cassandra’s verbal report and truth and posit an opposition
between aletheia and appearance. These implications resonate with the sentiments oI
Nemean 7 where truth and appearance are similarly distinguished, but the key diIIerence
is that the Pindaric example depicts verbal reports as a representation, a “mirror,” oI the
truth, whereas the truth oI Cassandra’s plain words is set in opposition to images that
only resemble the literal meaning. Like Pindar Aeschylus implies the existence oI an
objective reality, but diIIers in that he, perhaps because tragedy consists oI
I do not reIer here to the contrast implied by the etymology oI uλqθεια, which, as I have argued in
previous chapters, is not strikingly apparent in the use oI the word. Almost any instance oI uλqθεια may
arguably contain an implicit contrast to what is hidden or Iorgotten, but such a contrast is ancillary and does
not reveal as much as contextual uses oI the word do.
communicative interactions, suggests that truthIul reporting equates rather than
approximates the truth.
In the Prometheus Bound Io very clearly puts pleasant Ialsehoods in a diIIerent
category Irom accuracy:
εi δ’ cχεις εiπεiν ó τι
λοιπoν πoνων, σqµαινε, µηδc’ µ’ οiκτiσας
ξuνθαλπε µuθοις ψευδcσιν. (PV 683-685)
II you can tell me what remains Ior me oI toils, tell me, and do not out oI
pity coddle me with Ialse stories.
In her request Ior knowledge oI her Iuture, Io demands that Prometheus not lie to her in
an eIIort to spare her Ieelings, using the term pseudos in a context where Ialsehood and
pity are closely aligned. She is careIul to diIIerentiate between what she actually wants
to hear and what Prometheus may think she wants to hear, speciIying knowledge oI what
will really happen, however painIul, as the ultimate goal oI her inquiry. Furthermore, she
acknowledges the potential Ior Ialsehood to prevail by catering to the listener’s desires
over all else; both the sentiment and the wording recall Olympian 1.28-34:
q θαuµατα πολλu, καi ποu τι καi βροτeν φuτις íπcρ τoν uλαθq λoγον
δεδαιδαλµcνοι ψεuδεσι ποικiλοις cξαπατeντι µiθοι·
Χuρις δ`, úπερ úπαντα τεuχει τu µεiλιχα θνατοiς,
cπιφcροισα τιµuν καi úπιστον cµqσατο πιστoν
cµµεναι τo πολλuκις·
uµcραι δ’ cπiλοιποι
Indeed, there are many wonders, and somehow the speeches oI mortals,
stories, have been embellished beyond the true account and deceive with
intricate Ialsehoods; Ior Charis, who provides mortals with all pleasant
things, oIten renders the incredible credible by bringing honor. But days
to come are the wisest witnesses.
The notable diIIerence between the two passages is that the term aletheia is absent Irom
Io’s words; thus the contrast is not explicitly between truth and enjoyable Ialsehood, but
between what will happen and pleasant illusion. In the Pindaric passage the truth and the
Iuture (cπiλοιποι) are intertwined, whereas Io mentions the Iuture (λοιπoν) without
situating it explicitly in a context oI truth. Instead Io’s quest Ior truth is implied by her
rejection oI Ialse stories, and possibly by the verbal resonances between her words and
Pindar’s, both oI which attribute transparency to the Iuture. In the context oI the
Prometheus Bound, however, the possibility oI access to the truth is a rather complicated
a Iull discussion oI which is outside the scope oI this project. SuIIice it to say
that Io posits a clear distinction between desire and accuracy.
Similarly, when the Chorus oI the Agamemnon anticipate the Herald’s report,
they posit truthIul and dream-like as the two alternatives Ior the beacon-Iires.
τuχ εiσoµεθα λαµπuδων φαεσφoρων
φρυκτωριeν τε καi πυρoς παραλλαγuς,
εiτ’ οiν uληθεiς εiτ’ oνειρuτων δiκην
τερπνoν τoδ’ cλθoν φeς cφqλωσεν φρcνας. (Ag. 489-492)
Soon we will know about the light-bearing beacons and the transmissions
oI Iire, whether they are true or whether this pleasant light has come and
deceived our minds in the manner oI dreams.
Here too is the contrast between reality and appearance. The opposition here is not only
between truth and dreams, but between truth and illusions that convey credibility because
they are pleasant to believe.
Manipulating the Contrast Between Truth and Hope Manipulating the Contrast Between Truth and Hope Manipulating the Contrast Between Truth and Hope Manipulating the Contrast Between Truth and Hope
In light oI these contexts oI opposition, we can surmise that truth is a distinct
entity, neither good nor bad, but despite the sometimes severe acknowledgment that the
truth will not necessarily bear good news, the characters oI Aeschylean tragedy seem to
See n. 227 below.
Page’s OCT and Lloyd-Jones 1979 give these lines to Clytemnestra in accordance with the manuscripts,
but most other editors attribute them to the Chorus.
desire it Ior its own sake, regardless oI the consequences. Thus, a paradox: the truth is at
once distinct Irom hopes, wishes, or pleasant illusions, yet it in itselI is also an object oI
desire, a void in knowledge that characters seek to Iill through verbal communication.
This contrast between truth and what is pleasant presents a complication when characters
express an awareness oI it, yet simultaneously desire the truth because they think it will
bring better consequences than lies. The problems oI this paradox are reIlected in the
interaction between the Chorus and the Herald oI the Agamemnon on the whereabouts oI
Κη. οuκ cσθ’ óπως λcξαιµι τu ψευδq καλu,
cς τoν πολuν φiλοισι καρποiσθαι χρoνον.
Χο. πeς δqτ’ uν εiπeν κεδνu τuληθq τuχοις;
σχισθcντα δ’ οuκ εúκρυπτα γiγνεται τuδε.
Κη. uνqρ úφαντος cξ Aχαιικοi στρατοi,
αuτoς τε καi τo πλοiον· οu ψευδq λcγω. (Ag. 620-625)
Herald: It cannot be that I speak what is Ialse as Iair, so that my Iriends
harvest it Ior the long time ahead.
Chorus: II only you can tell good news and still speak truth! When these
things are severed, it is not easy to conceal.
Herald: The man is vanished Irom the Achaean host, he and his ship; I
speak no lies.
The Chorus seeks news oI Menelaus, whose disappearance and absence Iurthers the plot
oI the Agamemnon by enabling Clytemnestra and Aegisthus to carry out their planned
Their hunger Ior inIormation is oIIset by the Herald’s unwillingness to deliver
bad news, particularly since he cannot adorn it into something pleasant. He sets Iorth his
truth-telling mission by plainly admitting his inability to make Ialsehoods pleasant,
delivering the disastrous news that Menelaus is missing, and punctuating this report with
a denial oI Ialsehood. Having opened his report with an acknowledgement oI the Ialse
parallels between good and true, however, he later concludes on a hopeIul note:
CI. Lloyd-Jones 1979, 62.
Μενcλεων γuρ οiν
πρeτoν τε καi µuλιστα προσδoκα µολεiν·
εi δ’ οiν τις uκτiς qλiου νιν iστορεi
καi ζeντα καi βλcποντα, µηχαναiς ∆ιoς
οúπω θcλοντος cξαναλeσαι γcνος,
cλπiς τις αuτoν πρoς δoµους qξειν πuλιν.
τοσαiτ’ uκοuσας iσθι τuληθq κλuων. (Ag. 674-680)
As Ior Menelaus, Iirst and chieIly, expect that he will come. Well, iI some
ray oI the sun Iinds him out still Ilourishing in liIe, by the contrivance oI a
Zeus who does not yet wish to destroy his race, there is some hope that he
will come back home. Know that in hearing so much you have heard the
The Herald’s claim to accuracy is a Iairly common generic trope oI messenger
but the placement oI this claim at the conclusion oI his speech is signiIicant.
He begins on a note oI hesitation, reluctant to convey bad news but also unwilling to tell
a placating Ialsehood. The Chorus agree about the Iutility oI concealing the truth when it
is separate Irom the good, but at the same time express a desire Ior the truth to be good
In any case the Herald delays the claim that his report is true (τuληθq) until he
has delivered news oI something hopeIul, even though he cannot conIirm Menelaus’
whereabouts. The claim oI truth at the end oI such a speculative statement is odd and
suggests that the desire Ior the truth as well as Ior good news can coincide when the Iull
truth is unknown.
The potential conIlict that arises Irom the desire Ior truth is whether this desire
will supersede others. Clytemnestra exploits this conIlict when she makes the
astonishing and proIoundly dishonest claim that she has been a IaithIul wiIe in
CI. Pers. 513-514, Sept. 66-68, 651-652. See also Supp. 931-932 where the Herald oI the Egyptians
states the duty oI a herald to report precisely and completely.
Goldhill 1984, 57: “In other words, this construction both asserts a wish (that the messenger might
speak both good and true things) and puts its possibility under question.”
γυναiκα πιστqν δ’ cν δoµοις εúροι µολeν
οîανπερ οiν cλειπε, δωµuτων κuνα
cσθλqν cκεiνç, πολεµαν τοiς δuσφροσιν,
καi τúλλ’ oµοiαν πuντα, σηµαντqριον
οuδcν διαφθεiρασαν cν µqκει χρoνου·
οuδ’ οiδα τcρψιν οuδ’ cπiψογον φuτιν
úλλου πρoς uνδρoς µuλλον q χαλκοi βαφuς.
τοιoσδ’ o κoµπος, τqς uληθεiας γcµων,
οuκ αiσχρoς eς γυναικi γενναiµ λακεiν. (Ag. 606-614)
Let him come and Iind a IaithIul wiIe at home, just as he leIt her, a watch-
dog oI his home, loyal to him, hostile to his enemies, and in all other ways
the same woman who has destroyed no seal over time. I know neither
pleasure nor censorious speech Irom another man any more than I know
the art oI tempering brass. Such is my boast, brimming with truth, not
shameIul Ior a noble woman to shout.
Her words express the direct and diametric opposite to the truth: Iar Irom being a trusty
watch-dog oI Agamemnon’s home, she has taken a lover into her home with whom she
conspires to murder her husband. The most appalling aspect oI her speech is not only
that it is untrue but that in the wake oI these patent untruths, it claims to be “brimming
with truth.” Her attachment oI the term aletheia to a completely Ialse statement reveals
the extent oI her character’s duplicity and showcases Aeschylean dynamics oI truth and
Ialsehood on several counts.
First, she uses aletheia to characterize a verbal account,
thus in keeping with the Aeschylean and Homeric notion that truth is a primarily verbal
maniIestation. Secondly, she is telling the Chorus what she thinks is expected oI a good
wiIe. Instead oI conIessing her actual activities during Agamemnon’s absence,
Clytemnestra provides a description oI how she should have behaved iI she were truly
devoted to him. She exploits the Chorus’ desire Ior the truth by lying in such a way as to
satisIy another oI their desires, the desire Ior her wiIely loyalty to Agamemnon. Whether
or not she successIully deceives the Chorus is another matter; their response comes in the
CI. Goldhill 1986, 8, who observes that the phrase “‘loaded with truth’…suggests the marked possibility
oI its opposite, that words can be emptied, unloaded oI truth.”
textually problematic lines αúτη µcν οúτως † εiπε µανθuνοντi σοι, , τοροiσιν cρµηνεiσιν
εuπρεπeς † λoγον (“So she spoke; iI you understand through clear interpreters, her
speech looks Iair,” Ag. 615-616);
although the meaning oI these lines is not entirely
clear, the Chorus’ reIerences to interpreters oI the speech and its seemliness (cρµηνεiσιν
εuπρεπeς) indicate a degree oI irony.
W WW WHERE IS THE HERE IS THE HERE IS THE HERE IS THE T TT TRUTH TO BE RUTH TO BE RUTH TO BE RUTH TO BE F FF FOUND OUND OUND OUND? ?? ? W WW WHO HO HO HO K KK KNOWS NOWS NOWS NOWS THE THE THE THE T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH? ?? ?
So Iar I have argued that Aeschylean truth is a primarily verbal entity delineated
by opposition to illusory hopes or desires. It is separate Irom desire, yet is itselI an object
oI desire since the characters oI Aeschylus, while acknowledging the distinction between
truth and what they want, nevertheless exhibit a consistent desire to learn the truth. This
desire Ior truth raises the questions, particularly in light oI the doubt shown toward
Clytemnestra by the Chorus in the last passage, oI who has access to the truth and where
it is to be Iound. There are three main avenues to truth in Aeschylus: nonverbal signals,
messenger-Iigures, and prophecy.
1. Nonverbal Signals 1. Nonverbal Signals 1. Nonverbal Signals 1. Nonverbal Signals
OI this Iirst category, nonverbal signals, there are two signiIicant examples, the
similarities between which I discussed brieIly in Chapter Two and now elaborate here. In
the Seven Against Thebes the Chorus oI Theban women launch into a long choral ode,
voicing their despair about the dangers that loom over their city as the troops oI the
Ieuding brothers Eteocles and Polyneices conIront each other. They justiIy their Iears at
For a summary oI scholarly controversies surrounding these lines, see Denniston and Page 1957, ad 615-
CI. Goldhill 1984, 57: “πρεπ- reIers back to the element oI the visible in the watchman’s speech and
throughout the play, and implies, as beIore, here particularly through the irony oI the chorus, the possibility
oI speech having an opposite predication.”
the opening oI the ode by interpreting the dust-cloud raised by Polyneices’ army as
evidence oI Thebes’ imminent doom, a “clear, true messenger” oI the danger to come:
Χο. θρεiµαι φοβερu µεγuλ’ úχη.
µεθεiται στρατoς στρατoπεδον λιπeν·
pεi πολuς óδε λεeς πρoδροµος iππoτας·
αiθερiα κoνις µε πεiθει φανεiσ’
úναυδος σαφqς cτυµος úγγελος. (Sept. 78-82)
My sorrows are great and IearIul; I cry aloud. The army has leIt the camp
and is gone. Look at the Iorward rushing river, the great tide oI horsemen!
A cloud oI dust on high appears and persuades me, a messenger clear and
true, though voiceless.
The second example is in the beacon-Iires oI the Agamemnon. Upon spotting the beacon
the Watchman declares the accuracy oI its message—the Iall oI Troy—and hastens to
Aγαµcµνονος γυναικi σηµαiνω τορeς
εuνqς cπαντεiλασαν eς τuχος δoµοις
oλολυγµoν εuφηµοiντα τpδε λαµπuδι
cπορθiαζειν, εiπερ 1λiου πoλις
cuλωκεν, eς o φρυκτoς uγγcλλων πρcπει. (Ag. 26-30)
To Agamemnon’s wiIe
I signal clearly that she may rise Irom her bed as
quickly as possible and raise a jubilant cry oI thanksgiving at this torch, iI
the city oI Ilium is taken,
as the beacon’s light announces.
The Watchman inIorms Clytemnestra, who similarly treats the Iires as evidence oI
victory and later announces the news to the Chorus.
Both Clytemnestra and the Chorus oI the Seven, however, encounter resistance to
their claims. In the Seven the Chorus’ lament elicits Eteocles’ Iierce and unrelenting
íµuς cρωτe, θρcµµατ’ οuκ uνασχετu,
It is signiIicant that this reIerence to Clytemnestra does not use her name, instead designating her the
wiIe oI Agamemnon and thus portending the sexual conIlict oI the play, an issue I will discuss later in this
chapter. See Winnington-Ingram 1983, 102.
The εiπερ designates conIidence rather than skepticism. See Denniston and Page 1957, ad 29.
q ταiτ’ úριστα καi πoλει σωτqρια
στρατ( τε θuρσος τ(δε πυργηρουµcνç,
βρcτη πεσοuσας πρoς πολισσοuχων θεeν
αúειν, λακuζειν, σωφρoνων µισqµατα;
µqτ’ cν κακοiσι µqτ’ cν εuεστοi φiλp
ξuνοικος εiην τ( γυναικεiç γcνει·
κρατοiσα µcν γuρ οuχ oµιλητoν θρuσος,
δεiσασα δ’ οiκç καi πoλει πλcον κακoν.
καi νiν πολiταις τuσδε διαδρoµους φυγuς
θεiσαι διερροθqσατ’ úψυχον κuκην. (Sept. 181-191)
You insupportable creatures, I ask you, is it best, does it oIIer saIety Ior
the city and courage Ior this beleaguered army oI ours Ior you to Iall at the
statues oI the city’s gods crying and howling, an object oI hatred Ior all
temperate souls? Neither in evils nor in Iair good luck may I share a
dwelling with the Iemale race! When she’s triumphant, hers a conIidence
past converse with another, when aIraid an evil greater both Ior home and
city. Here now running wild among the citizenry you inspire spiritless
cowardice with your clamor.
The very Iact oI Eteocles’ response to the Chorus is signiIicant, Ior as Hutchinson and
Foley observe, choral songs are generally ignored by the next speaker.
reaction is Iar Irom dismissive, instead excoriating the Chorus Ior their overreaction and
assigning their behavior to a Iemale propensity Ior hasty extremes oI emotion.
Clytemnestra too encounters resistance. Although the Chorus express their
reverence to Clytemnestra (258), they make clear that their allegiance is a Iunction oI her
marriage to Agamemnon, whose absence makes her his proxy (259-260).
with them are thereaIter marked by persistent skepticism as she reports news oI the Iall oI
Troy: they express disbelieI (πeς φpς; πcφευγε τοiπος cξ uπιστiας, “How do you say?
From disbelieI your word has escaped me,” 268) and request to know her sources,
incredulous that a message could arrive so quickly (τi γuρ τo πιστoν; cστι τeνδc σοι
τcκµαρ; “For what prooI do you have? Do you have evidence oI this?” 272; καi τiς τoδ’
Hutchinson 1985, ad 182-202; Foley 2001, 45.
CI. Goldhill 1984, 34: “|Clytemnestra’s| power is because oI the lack not just oI the ruler but oI the
cξiκοιτ’ uν uγγcλων τuχος; “And what kind oI messenger could arrive with such speed as
this?” 280). They surmise that she may have gathered her news Irom dreams or rumors
(πoτερα δ’ oνεiρων φuσµατ’ εuπιθq σcβεις, “But do you respect the visions oI dreams as
persuasive?” 274; uλλ’ q σ’ cπiανcν τις úπτερος φuτις; “But is it some wingless rumor
exciting you?” 276). Clytemnestra eIIectually deIlects each oI their accusations and puts
the Chorus’ anxiety to rest by telling them oI the beacon-Iires (281-316) and even
providing an imagined account oI the events at Troy (320-350).
The Chorus’ request Ior evidence (τo πιστoν, τcκµαρ, 272) accords with explicit
expressions Irom contemporaneous literature oI the value oI witnessing events, Ior
example when Pindar claims to be a witness or claims knowledge Irom witnesses, or in
the Athenians’ marked contrast between hearsay and Iirst-hand knowledge in Thuc.
1.73.2. Clytemnestra garners the Chorus’ acceptance by speciIying her source and
providing a description oI the beacon-Iires that explains the relay-system oI message-
transIerence (281-316), but with one key opening phrase portrays its relay as a single,
uniIied message: 1φαιστος, 1δης λαµπρoν cκπcµπων σcλας· , φρυκτoς δc φρυκτoν δεiρ’
uπ’ uγγuρου πυρoς , cπεµπεν (“Hephaestus, sending Irom Ida a bright Ilame. And
beacon began to send beacon this way by means oI the courier Iire,” 281-283).
attributing the Iires to Hephaestus, Clytemnestra gives the message a divine source and
thereaIter presents the series oI beacon-Iires as a single traveling Ilame.
She then provides a detailed description oI Troy, conveying Iar more inIormation
than what could be gleaned Irom the Iires alone;
she describes the Iallen bodies (325-
For the use oI personiIication here, see Goldhill 1984, 38.
CI. Lloyd-Jones 1979, 15.
327), the lamentations oI the newly enslaved Trojan elders (328), and the toils oI the
Greek conquerors (330-337), none oI which could have been explicit in the beacon-Iires.
Even though the details provided are imagined, they are signiIicant demonstrations oI
Clytemnestra’s grasp oI war Irom both the Greek and Trojan points oI view,
understanding oI the consequences oI war, as she reIers to the conquerors’ choice to
respect or disrespect the gods oI Troy (338-340). Her account accordingly meets with
acceptance by the Chorus, who praise her manlike prudence and her use oI “trusty”
(γuναι, κατ’ úνδρα σeφρον’ εuφρoνως λcγεις· , cγe δ’ uκοuσας πιστu σου
τεκµqρια , θεοuς προσειπεiν εi παρασκευuζοµαι, “Woman, you speak graciously like a
prudent man. I have heard your trusty prooIs and am prepared to address the gods in
What Clytemnestra does to garner the Chorus’ trust, iI only
temporarily, is to elaborate the nonverbal message oI the beacon-Iires.
The Chorus, aIter initially accepting her story, regress to their earlier skepticism:
πυρoς δ’ íπ’ εuαγγcλου
πoλιν διqκει θοu
Goward 2005, 64 and Fraenkel 1950, ad loc. also note the degree oI detail in Clytemnestra’s account.
Fraenkel argues that Clytemnestra presents hoia an genoito rather than ta genomena, which Goward claims
“misses the point: Aeschylus deliberately undermines a logical Ioundation, leaving the voice to maniIest
itselI in all its eloquence and power.” I am inclined to agree with Fraenkel, since he suggests that
Clytemnestra’s account is imagined but realistic, and the Chorus accept it as such; Goward’s Iocus on the
power oI Clytemnestra’s voice strikes me as overly speculative and narrowly Iocused.
Clytemnestra presents the Trojan and Greek points oI view in lines 326-329 and 330-337, respectively.
Pace Denniston and Page 1957, ad 352 who think the Chorus’ praise “is not to be taken seriously;
nothing Clytemnestra has said aIIords evidence, let alone ‘convincing prooI’, that the beacons betoken the
Iall oI Troy.”
McClure 1999, 74 argues that Clytemnestra builds credibility with the Chorus by using the masculine
discourse oI prooIs and logic—indeed the Chorus praises Clytemnestra’s reason as belonging to a man—
but capping her speech with a clear statement oI her womanhood (348), thus gaining the upper hand with
the Chorus by blending masculine and Ieminine discourses and exploiting the advantages oIIered by both.
McClure is correct to observe the ambiguity oI Clytemnestra’s gender (cI. Winnington-Ingram 1983, 101-
131) but perhaps goes too Iar in designating Clytemnestra’s discourse one oI prooIs and logic—in itselI a
questionable assertion—and terming such a discourse “masculine.”
CI. Goldhill 1984, 38-39 who notes Clytemnestra’s verbalization oI a non-verbal message.
βαξις· εi δ’ cτqτυµος,
τiς οiδεν, q τι θεioν cστi πp ψuθος;
τiς eδε παιδνoς q φρενeν κεκοµµcνος,
νcοις πυρωθcντα καρδiαν, cπειτ’
uλλαγµ λoγου καµεiν;
γυνακoς αiχµµ πρcπει
πρo τοi φανcντος χuριν ξυναινcσαι·
πιθανoς úγαν o θqλυς óρος cπινcµεται
ταχuπορος· uλλu ταχuµορον
γυναικογqρυτον óλλυται κλcος. (Ag. 475-487)
At the bidding oI the Iire that brought good news through the city runs the
swiIt message; who knows iI it is true or iI it is some godly lie?
so childish or so Iar shaken out oI his senses as to let his heart take Iire at
the new messages oI the beacon and then to suIIer when the story is
changed? It is Iitting Ior a woman’s spirit to give thanks Ior something
beIore it has appeared. Too persuasive, a woman’s ordinance spreads Iar,
traveling Iast; but dying Iast a rumor voiced by a woman comes to
The Chorus oI the Seven and Clytemnestra encounter two distinct accusations: the
Chorus is charged with immoderate emotionality, while Clytemnestra’s supposed error is
capricious naïvete, but both oI these are allegedly Iemale tendencies. A Iurther similarity
lies in the words describing their respective interpretations: the Theban women describe
the dust-cloud as a “true messenger,” an cτυµος úγγελος, while the Chorus oI the
Agamemnon term the beacon-Iires as possibly cτqτυµος, a variant oI cτυµος. The choice
in both passages oI the adjective cτυµος instead oI uληθqς is striking since each instance
CI. the Ialse dream sent by Zeus to Agamemnon in Il. 2.
Scholarly conIusion and disagreement surround the Chorus’ sudden reversal. As Denniston and Page
1957, ad 475II. note, “There is nothing in this play or any other properly comparable with the present
example, in which the Ioundations oI a whole stasimon are undermined in the epode with sudden and total
ruin.” Fraenkel 1950, 249 posits a “certain looseness in the psychological texture oI the Chorus” as an
explanation. Winington-Ingram 1983, 104 notes that the Chorus has just expressed anxiety over the
negative consequences oI war Ior its victors and conjectures that this passage expresses relieI that the news
oI Troy’s Iall may still be Ialse. Whatever the psychological motivation may be Ior the reversal, these lines
and the ones that Iollow provide eIIective anticipation Ior the Herald’s imminent entrance and the news he
brings. CI. Fraenkel 1950, 248: “The moment which the poet has chosen Ior the utterance oI the Elders’
doubts was dictated to him by considerations oI dramatic structure, that is to say the need Ior an eIIectual
Ioil to the Herald’s speech.”
reIers to a nonverbal signal, whereas uληθqς, as I have discussed in Chapter Two, tends
to characterize verbal communications. The use oI cτυµος has implications Ior the truth-
value oI the message—neither the dust-cloud nor the beacon-Iires carries the authority oI
a speaking messenger who communicates a true report based on what he has witnessed
Iirst-hand. Instead both the cloud and the Iires are nonverbal signals whose authority as
messages oI truth rests with whoever has interpreted them as such. The message oI a
nonverbal signal results not Irom a communication between two speakers but rather an
interpretation by one person oI an inanimate message; it thus does not convey the same
degree oI consensual truth that an uληθqς message does.
The internal receptions oI the Theban women and oI Clytemnestra support the
notion that their cτυµος messages command very little belieI. Eteocles’ harsh reaction to
the Chorus, who have annoyed him with their excessive lamentations, is understandable
since the women have admittedly read a lot, perhaps too much, into the signiIicance oI
the dust-cloud, which they mistakenly see as an omen oI their annihilation. At the end oI
the play Thebes still stands, and the Theban women are saIe Irom the danger they so
readily believed would overcome them. Likewise, the doubt Clytemnestra encounters
Irom the Chorus oI the Agamemnon is somewhat justiIied, as the beacon-Iires are prooI
positive neither oI Troy’s Iall nor oI Agamemnon’s return, which Clytemnestra equates
with the Iall oI Troy. The harsh reaction Irom Eteocles and the doubt oI the Chorus in
the Agamemnon together imply that this type oI truth, which derives Irom interpretation
oI nonverbal signals and is termed cτυµος, is considered less reliable than the type
relayed through verbal communication.
The beacon-Iires are eventually described as uληθqς, but not until the Herald’s
arrival on the scene is anticipated:
τuχ εiσoµεθα λαµπuδων φαεσφoρων
φρυκτωριeν τε καi πυρoς παραλλαγuς,
εiτ’ οiν uληθεiς εiτ’ oνειρuτων δiκην
τερπνoν τoδ’ cλθoν φeς cφqλωσεν φρcνας·
κqρυκ’ uπ’ uκτqς τoνδ’ oρe κατuσκιον
κλuδοις cλαiας. (Ag. 489-494)
Soon we will know about the beacon-watchings and the Iire-transmissions
oI the light-bearing torches, whether they are true or whether this light that
brought joy in its coming has beguiled us in the manner oI dreams. I see
here a herald Irom the shore, his brow shaded with twigs oI olive.
The Chorus speak these lines in response to Clytemnestra’s reading oI the beacon-Iires,
and the implications are clear: her interpretation can be proven only by the Herald.
SigniIicantly, the veracity oI the beacon-Iires is now described by the word uληθqς
instead oI cτυµος or cτqτυµος. Now that the Herald may corroborate or deny
Clytemnestra’s claim, the beacon-Iires that Iorm its basis are either uληθqς or illusory.
The Iires themselves are not means to truth as much as the Herald is, since whether or not
Clytemnestra’s interpretation is deemed true depends on his report. The Iires’ veracity is
questionable until supported by another more credible source, a source that may engage
in communicative interaction oI a verbal nature; hence the application oI the adjective
uληθqς over cτυµος here.
Whereas Clytemnestra makes an inIerence based on a nonverbal message, the
Herald’s inIormation comes Irom eyewitness experience and communication with those
present at the events he reports. His capacity Ior verbal interaction is speciIically
contrasted with the “voicelessness” oI the beacon-Iires:
µαρτυρεi δc µοι κuσις
πηλοi ξuνουρος διψiα κoνις τuδε,
eς οúτ’ úναυδος οúτε σοι δαiων φλoγα
úλης oρεiας σηµανεi καπν( πυρoς. (Ag. 494-497)
Page’s OCT and Lloyd-Jones 1979 give these lines to Clytemnestra in accordance with the manuscripts,
but most other editors attribute them to the Chorus.
Mud’s brother and neighbor, thirsty dust, attests this much, that he is not
voiceless, nor will you Iind him kindling the Ilame oI mountain
brushwood to make signals with a Iire that is illusion.
While cτυµος describes an interpretive truth that stems Irom a nonverbal signal, uληθqς
designates a truth that can be communicated between two parties, an exchange oI truth,
which is what the characters oI Aeschylean tragedy seem to value more.
2. Messengers 2. Messengers 2. Messengers 2. Messengers
The credibility granted to the Herald oI the Agamemnon underscores the role oI
the messenger-Iigure as a speaker oI truth. Nonverbal signals do not carry the same
authority by comparison and are explicitly compared to verbal messages in the
Choephoroi. When Electra catches sight oI a lock oI hair, she and the Chorus surmise
that it may belong to Orestes, but lament that this unspeaking sign does not convey the
same certainty as a messenger: εiθ’ εiχε φωνqν cφρον’ uγγcλου δiκην, , óπως δiφροντις
οiσα µq ’κινυσσoµην (“II only it had sense and speech, like a messenger, so that I was
not oI two minds, swayed to and Iro,” Cho. 195-196). When she discovers an additional
indicator oI Orestes’ presence, she remains dubious (καi µqν στiβοι γε, δεuτερον
τεκµqριον, “Yes, and here are Iootprints, a second sign,” Cho. 205), and her doubts
gradually subside only when Orestes presents himselI to her, conIirms her suspicions
about the lock (229-230), and produces an additional sign oI his identity, a garment
woven by her (231-232).
The messenger-Iigure, then, is treated as the most credible, unquestionable
purveyor oI truth in Aeschylean drama because oI his Iirst-hand knowledge and his
ability to communicate it verbally.
None oI the messengers in Aeschylus encounters
CI. Pers. 266-267 where the Herald claims eyewitness knowledge oI the events he reports.
incredulity, and those who are particularly welcomed as sources oI truth report what has
happened abroad, Iar Irom the staged action oI the tragedy. Although it is a
commonplace in Greek drama Ior a messenger-Iigure to report oIIstage action, the
Aeschylean messenger is distinct in that he is comparatively rare and oIten reports events
that have occurred prior to, rather than simultaneously with, the events oI the play.
is thereIore endowed with a great deal oI privileged inIormation and enjoys authority
because he alone can provide a Iirst-hand account oI events that would otherwise be
unknown or unknowable to the characters onstage.
The Herald oI the Agamemnon consequently arrives on the scene amidst eager
anticipation oI his truthIulness. Since his Iirst task is to conIirm Clytemnestra’s report,
he is not the sole source oI inIormation, but he is the only one who can provide a Iirst-
hand account oI the events at Troy. He thereIore does not need to provide evidence
either Ior his report or Ior his character to elicit the Chorus’ belieI, and his quite general
account is consistent with Clytemnestra’s, but provides no details that would aIIord him
greater credibility over her. The Chorus receive him with a Iriendly greeting and with
questions about his well-being, thus showing how they identiIy with and relate to him
(κqρυξ Aχαιeν χαiρε τeν uπo στρατοi, “Hail, herald oI the Achaean army!” Ag. 539;
cρως πατρçας τqσδε γqς σ’ cγuµνασεν; “Did love oI your ancestral land aIIlict you?” Ag.
540). When the Herald concludes his Iirst speech, the Chorus cement their unquestioning
belieI in his account, even paying him the Iurther compliment that his account ediIies and
rejuvenates: νικeµενος λoγοισιν οuκ uναiνοµαι, , uεi γαρ qβµ τοiς γcρουσιν εuµαθεiν
CI. Taplin 1977, 83. The notable exception is the angelos at Sept. 792.
CI. Taplin 1977, 81-82 who discusses the essential elements oI a messenger scene: “Not every scene
with any sort oI narrative element will pass as a messenger scene. Rather, there are three elements
involved: anonymous eye-witness, set-piece narrative speech, and over-all dramatic Iunction…The usual
angelos is, like this in Pers, a lower-status character who has no other part in the play.”
(“Your words prevail on me, and I do not reject them; Ior eagerness to learn is always a
renewal oI youth Ior the old,” 583-584).
Clytemnestra’s interpretation oI the beacon-Iires, by contrast, meets with
skepticism Irom the Chorus, whose doubt indicates that her means oI acquiring the truth
are not as credible as the Herald’s. When she is vindicated, she mocks those who would
discredit the beacon-Iires and her belieI in them:
uνωλoλυξα µcν πuλαι χαρuς úπο,
óτ’ qλθ’ o πρeτος νuχιος úγγελος πυρoς
φρuζων úλωσιν 1λiου τ’ uνuστασιν·
καi τiς µ’ cνiπτων εiπε “φρυκτωρeν διu
πεισθεiσα Τροiαν νiν πεπορθqσθαι δοκεiς;
q κuρτα πρoς γυναικoς αiρεσθαι κcαρ.” (590-592)
I cried aloud with joy long since, when the Iirst message oI the Iire came
by night, indicating the capture and sack oI Ilium. And some rebuking me
said, “Convinced by Iire signals do you now think Troy has been sacked?
Indeed it is like a woman to let her Ieelings carry her away.”
She exits soon thereaIter, leaving the Herald and the Chorus to continue their discourse
(615-680). This section showcases the uniqueness oI the Herald’s knowledge: the
Chorus ask about Menelaus, who they learn is missing along with his crew. The Herald
alone is in a position to provide inIormation about Menelaus. While Clytemnestra learns
much Irom the beacon-Iires, they tell her nothing oI Menelaus’ whereabouts, or even that
Menelaus is lost.
The Messenger oI the Persians enjoys a similar singularity oI knowledge. When
he reports to Queen Atossa the disaster in Greece, he concludes with a claim to truth that
ταiτ’ cστ’ uληθq, πολλu δ’ cκλεiπω λcγων
κακeν u Πcρσαις cγκατcσκηψεν θεoς. (Pers. 512-513)
These things are true, but I omit many oI the woes a god has hurled
against the Persians.
He does not lose any credibility by admitting the curtailed nature oI his account, instead
boosting it with his implied knowledge oI Iurther corroborating details.
Irom the Chorus and the Queen is not to question his account but to give tacit recognition
oI its veracity by posing no Iurther questions, instead simply bursting into exclamations
oI lament (515-531). Indeed, his very arrival on the scene is marked by the Chorus’
anticipation oI his report:
uλλ’ cµοi δοκεiν τuχ’ εiσp πuντα ναµερτq λoγον.
τοiδε γuρ δρuµηµα φωτoς Περσικoν πρcπει µαθεiν,
καi φcρει σαφcς τι πρuγος cσθλoν q κακoν κλuειν. (Pers. 246-248)
But soon you will know the whole inIallible account: a Persian runner
comes bearing some clear report, good or bad to hear.
The terms the Chorus use to designate the Messenger’s account clearly convey their
expectation oI accuracy (ναµερτq, σαφcς), and they entertain no possibility that his report
may be Ialse. As Barrett notes, the Chorus invoke “both the messenger’s reliability and
the Iullness oI his account.”
This Messenger models the exceptional authority
accorded to such a Iigure. Since the Chorus and the other characters at home have no
other way oI knowing what is happening in Greece, the Messenger has the unique
position oI being the sole source oI inIormation, which he may edit as he pleases. His
Iirst-hand knowledge precludes any doubt.
3. 3. 3. 3. Prophecy Prophecy Prophecy Prophecy
Indeed, he has said twice beIore that his account is incomplete (329-330, 429-430).
Barrett 2002, 29. Barrett observes that the Messenger does not adhere to the koruphaios’ expectations
oI him; the Chorus expect a conventional messenger-Iigure, but the Messenger deviates Irom this course by
summarizing rather than detailing what has happened, thus imposing his own point oI view on his
narrative. CI. de Jong 1991 on the various perspectives oIIered by Euripidean messengers. I Iind Barrett’s
reading interesting, but hesitate to assign too much signiIicance to the omissions oI the Persian Messenger,
since it seems to me that any narrative is by nature edited by its speaker.
The third means to truth I have identiIied is prophecy or statements that prove
prophetic. As I observed in Chapter Two, there are several instances where words Ior
truth such as uλqθεια, uληθqς, and cτυµος designate accurate prophecies oI events that
have not yet occurred, whether these prophecies stem Irom individual prescience or
interpretation oI divine will. In some ways prophetic Iigures might be considered a type
oI messenger, as they serve as intermediaries between a message’s source and its
recipient and express their messages verbally. Seers Iundamentally diIIer, however, since
their inIormation originates Irom divine knowledge.
The most obvious example oI a prophetic Iigure is Cassandra oI the Agamemnon,
whose truthIulness is both selI-proclaimed and acknowledged by the Chorus:
Κα. τo µcλλον qξει, καi σu µ’ cν τuχει παρeν
úγαν γ’ uληθoµαντιν οiκτiρας cρεiς.
Χο. τqν µcν Θυcστου δαiτα παιδεiων κρεeν
ξυνqκα καi πcφρικα, καi φoβος µ’ cχει
κλuοντ’ uληθeς οuδcν cξpκασµcνα. (Ag. 1240-1244)
Cassandra: The Iuture will come; and soon you shall stand here to
pronounce me, in pity, a prophet who spoke all too true.
Chorus: Thyestes’ Ieast upon his children’s Ilesh I understand and
shudder at, and Iear takes hold oI me as I hear it truly told and not in
At Iirst Cassandra seems an unlikely voice Ior truth, as she is initially silent and remains
so Ior more than two hundred lines, prompting Clytemnestra to belittle her as either a
Greek-illiterate barbarian (1050-1053) or a madwoman unaccustomed to her newly
imposed servitude (1064-1068). The Chorus agree that Cassandra’s behavior is strange
and conIusing: cρµηνcως cοικεν q ξcνη τοροi , δεiσθαι· τρoπος δc θηρoς eς νεαιρcτου
(“The stranger seems to need a clear interpreter; and her manner is that oI a newly
captured beast,” Ag. 1062-1063). When she Iinally does speak, it is in agitated
exclamations to Apollo that elicit conIusion Irom the Chorus (1074-1075), whose stated
need Ior an interpreter, at the time a reIerence to Cassandra’s Ioreignness, now takes on
new meaning. The communicative gap between the Chorus and Cassandra is emphasized
by their contrasting modes oI speech, Cassandra’s sung lyrics interwoven with the
Chorus’ spoken trimeters.
Her lack oI lucidity, however, diminishes even in the midst oI her exclamations oI
lament. The Chorus have already Iound an aIIinity with her and pity her (1069) despite
Clytemnestra’s encouragement towards scornIul disdain. Perhaps it is their pity Ior her
that Iacilitates ready recognition oI her prophetic ability:
χρqσειν cοικεν uµφi τeν αíτqς κακeν·
µcνει τo θεiον δουλiµ περ cν φρενi. (Ag. 1083-1084)
She will prophesy about her own sorrows; the god’s giIt remains in her
mind, even in servitude.
The developing bond between Cassandra and the Chorus Iurther strengthens as she
displays her giIts oI prophecy. Her words are perIectly understood at Iirst:
Κα. ú ú
µισoθεον µcν οiν, πολλu συνiστορα
αuτοφoνα κακu †καρτuναι†
uνδροσφαγεiον καi πcδον pαντqριον.
Χο. cοικεν εúρις q ξcνη κυνoς δiκην
εiναι, µατεuει δ’eν uνευρqσει φoνον.
Κα. µαρτυρiοισι γuρ τοiσδ’ cπιπεiθοµαι
κλαιoµενα τuδε βρcφη σφαγuς
oπτuς τε σuρκας πρoς πατρoς βεβρωµcνας.
Χο. q µqν κλcος σου µαντικoν πεπυσµcνοι
qµεν, προφqτας δ’ οúτινας µατεuοµεν. (Ag. 1090-1099)
Cassandra: No, to a house that hates the gods, one that knows many sad
tales oI kindred murder…, a slaughter-place Ior men, a place where the
ground is sprinkled.
CI. Lloyd-Jones 1979, 87.
On the meaning oI τo θεiον cI. Denniston and Page, 1957, ad 1084: “The ‘day oI slavery which takes
Irom a man halI his excellence’…has not robbed Cassandra oI her giIt oI prophecy (which is all that τo
θεiον means here).”
Chorus: The stranger seems to have keen scent, like a hound, and she is
on the track oI those whose blood she will discover.
Cassandra: Yes, Ior here are the witnesses that I believe. These are
children weeping Ior their slaughter, and Ior the roasted Ilesh their Iather
Chorus: Indeed we had heard oI your prophetic Iame; but we seek no
interpreters oI the gods.
Cassandra’s words are vague, yet suIIiciently allusive Ior the Chorus to recognize that
she reIers to the past carnage oI the house oI Atreus; they are consequently quick to
ascribe prophetic ability to her (1098-1099).
Cassandra is alternately lucid and incomprehensible to the Chorus, who
understand her when she speaks allusively about events Iamiliar to them but are conIused
when her utterances become predictive rather than reIlective. As she progresses to
predictions oI Agamemnon’s death, the reaction Irom the Chorus is conIusion:
Κα. ie πoποι, τi ποτε µqδεται;
τi τoδε νcον úχος; µcγα,
µcγ’ cν δoµοισι τοiσδε µqδεται κακoν,
úφερτον φiλοισιν, δυσiατον· uλκu δ’ cκuς uποστατεi.
Χο. τοuτων úιδρiς εiµι τeν µαντευµuτων,
cκεiνα δ’ cγνων· πuσα γuρ πoλις βοµ. (Ag. 1100-1106)
Cassandra: O horror, what plot is this? What is this great new agony? A
great evil is being plotted in this house, unbearable Ior its Iriends, hard to
remedy; and protection stands Iar oII.
Chorus: These prophecies I know not; but the others I recognized; Ior it is
the talk oI all the city.
The Chorus themselves state the diIIerence between this prophecy and her earlier ones,
which were recognizable, whereas the present ones are not. Cassandra’s knowledge oI
the truth is well received, but only as long as what she says relates to the past and is thus
already Iamiliar to her listeners. When she describes events not yet known to the Chorus,
they are stopped short, claiming ignorance (úιδρις, 1105).
CI. Zeitlin 1990, 111 on the visionary quality ascribed to women.
As Cassandra proceeds to detail Agamemnon’s death and her own (1107-1148),
she continues to be incomprehensible to the Chorus, who consequently diagnose her with
madness (1140-1145). But she is able to overcome this accusation oI madness when she
achieves a moment oI clarity in which the Chorus understand her once more:
Κα. ie γuµοι γuµοι Πuριδος oλcθριοι φiλων·
ie Σκαµuνδρου πuτριον ποτoν·
τoτε µcν uµφi σuς uιoνας τuλαιν’
νiν δ’ uµφi Κωκυτoν τε κ’ Aχερουσiους
óχθους cοικα θεσπιçδqσειν τuχα. (1156-1161)
Χο. τi τoδε τορoν úγαν cπος cφηµiσω;
νεογνoς uν uiων µuθοι·
πcπληγµαι δ’ íπαi δqγµατι φοινiç
δυσαλγεi τuχµ µινυρu θρεοµcνας,
θραuµατ’ cµοi κλuειν. (1162-1166)
Cassandra: O the marriage, the marriage oI Paris, bringing ruin on his
loved ones! O the native Ilow oI the Scamander! Wretched me, I was
once reared and grew up around your banks! But now I am likely to
prophesy soon around the Cocytus and the Acherousian shores.
Chorus: Why have you voiced this saying, all too clear? A new-born
could hear and understand. I am struck by a bloody bite, by your painIul
Iate as you shriek your plaintive notes, shattering Ior me to hear.
What contributes to this dawn oI understanding is a description oI the events at Troy,
which Cassandra has herselI witnessed. Her allusion to Paris establishes a point oI
commonality between her history and the Chorus’ as she speaks oI past events in a way
that they would understand, thus making them more receptive to her prophetic utterances.
Again, her explanation oI events that would be recognizable to the Chorus garners their
trust and Iacilitates their comprehension and belieI. As Lebeck notes, Cassandra
interweaves her own Iate with Agamemnon’s and the destruction oI Troy with the curse
upon the Atreids.
Lebeck 1971, 51-58.
Cassandra’s reports resemble a messenger-Iigure’s in their descriptive quality.
She alternately encounters belieI and incomprehension Irom the Chorus, but when they
do understand her, they credit her with reporting on events as iI she were actually there:
θαυµuζω δc σου,
πoντου πcραν τραφεiσαν uλλoθρουν πoλιν
κυρεiν λcγουσαν eσπερ εi παρεστuτεις. (Ag. 1199-1201)
But I marvel at you, that though bred beyond the seas you speak truly oI a
Ioreign city, as though you had been present.
The Chorus’ response to Cassandra’s speech about the House oI Atreus (1178-1197)
encapsulates why they believe her: she speaks oI events with Iirst-hand knowledge and
The diIIerence between Cassandra’s access to truth and a messenger-Iigure’s is
that hers comes Irom an entirely diIIerent source. Whereas her knowledge results Irom
the giIt oI sight given her by Apollo (1202-1212), messengers rely on eyewitness
inIormation and thereIore may only report on events that have already occurred.
Cassandra, like Clytemnestra, receives her knowledge oI events without being present at
them herselI, eliciting belieI when her accounts are suIIiciently vivid to eIIect
comprehension. While Clytemnestra is vindicated when the Herald’s report concurs with
her own interpretation, Cassandra must rely on her knowledge oI the past to win over the
Chorus. But the Chorus implicitly place a higher premium on her type oI knowledge,
prophecy, when they acknowledge and recognize her giIts in this arena. As I stated
previously, the Chorus have no trouble recognizing Cassandra’s prophetic abilities when
Denniston and Page 1957, 166 and Lloyd-Jones 1979, 93-94 argue that Cassandra evokes the past and
tells the Chorus about Apollo’s curse in a purposeIul endeavor to persuade the Chorus oI her prophetic
knowledge about the Iuture. I preIer to read these lines as emphasizing the Irustrating paradox oI
Cassandra, by turns believed and incomprehensible.
she talks about the past.
Their comprehension oI Cassandra is akin to their belieI in
the report oI the Herald, Ior when they do understand her, it is because she speaks like an
Furthermore, Cassandra’s reIerences to past carnage, unlike a messenger speech,
include allusion to Iuture consequences. She speaks oI “kindred Furies” (συγγoνων
1ρινuων, 1190), the “original ruin” oI Thyestes’ and Atreus’ crimes (πρeταρχον úτην,
1192), and the by-turns recurrence oI their misdeeds (cν µcρει, 1192), all oI which point
up the reciprocal and selI-perpetuating nature oI individual acts oI violence.
explicitly reIers to the reciprocal nature oI Atreid carnage as she Ioretells the deaths that
will result Irom her own:
οúτοι δυσοiζω θuµνον eς óρνις φoβç,
uλλ’ eς θανοuσp µαρτυρqτc µοι τoδε,
óταν γυνq γυναικoς uντ’ cµοi θuνp
uνqρ τε δυσδuµαρτος uντ’ uνδρoς πcσp. (1316-1319)
I do not tremble as a bird beIore a bush in Iear, but as I die, bear me
witness to this, when a woman shall die in return Ior me, a woman, and a
man Ialls in return Ior a man unIortunate in his wiIe.
Using repetitive language that reIlects the reciprocity oI retribution (γυνq γυναικoς,
uνqρ…uνδρoς), Cassandra again demonstrates that her giIt oI sight comprises awareness
oI causality as well as a simple prediction oI events. Her observations suggest an
understanding oI the continuous bloodshed that past events eIIect and show the
connectivity between past, present, and Iuture that her particular brand oI truth enables
her to perceive. The Chorus, however, do not readily perceive the Iuture implications oI
this trend oI reciprocal violence, instead only noting the accuracy oI her reIerences to
Atreus and Thyestes. The singularity oI Cassandra’s access to truth is that it knows no
See p. 29 Ior my discussion oI prophecy as entailing knowledge about the past and present in addition to
time dimension. She sees the Iuture just as she sees the past or present, an ability that
automatically sets her apart Irom her interlocutors, who, oI course, do not share the same
keen-sightedness. As a result the Chorus are sympathetic to Cassandra when she reports
on events Iamiliar to them, but her knowledge oI Iuture events isolates her. Thus when
she connects the ghosts oI Thyestes’ children to the imminent vengeIul actions oI
Clytemnestra, the Chorus understand only the Iormer:
τqν µcν Θυcστου δαiτα παιδεiων κρεeν
ξυνqκα καi πcφρικα, καi φoβος µ’ cχει
κλuοντ’ uληθeς οuδcν cξpκασµcνα·
τu δ’ úλλ’ uκοuσας cκ δρoµου πεσeν τρcχω. (Ag. 1242-1244)
I understand the Ieast oI Thyestes on the Ilesh oI his children and I
shudder, and Iear takes hold oI me as I hear it truly told and not in images.
But when I hear the rest I Ialter and run oII the course.
The various receptions oI Cassandra, Clytemnestra, the Theban women, and
messenger-Iigures indicate that despite the variety oI its instantiations, truth in Aeschylus
is most believable in its maniIestation as a messenger’s report, but the demonstrable
validity oI other Iorms oI truth and the characters’ erroneous disregard oI them are
reminders that the truth may be Iound in less obvious places.
G GG GENDER AND ENDER AND ENDER AND ENDER AND C CC CREDIBILITY REDIBILITY REDIBILITY REDIBILITY? ?? ?
I do not include the predictions oI Prometheus in my model, largely because he is a god and provider oI
prophecy to mankind (PV 484-499), yet he also obstructs true prophecy by instilling in man blind hopes
(τυφλuς…cλπiδας, 250). His relationship to prophecy thereIore inherently diIIers Irom Cassandra’s
because he himselI is a source Ior prophecy, rather than one who can access this source. CI. GriIIith 1983,
ad 484-90: “Occasionally scepticism was expressed about the value oI µαντικq (e.g. Xenophanes A 52
DK, Soph. OT 852-8, Eur. Hel. 744II., etc.), but this was more oIten directed against its human
practitioners (oraclemongers, priests, etc.) than against the divine basis oI the art, e.g., Eur. El . 399-400
Λοξiου γuρ cµπεδοι , χρησµοi, βροτeν δc µαντικqν χαiρειν ce (with Denniston’s n.).” Furthermore, to
examine other characters’ credulous reactions to his predictions misses one important point oI the play,
which is to present the conIlict between possibility and necessity. It is no accident that his predictions are
not explicitly associated with truth (either cτυµος or uληθqς) so much as with the Iuture (cI. λοιπoν, PV
684; τu λοιπu, 703), which is a less certain concept than truth and is not unquestionably inevitable in the
My discussion oI the various means to accessing truth in Aeschylus—nonverbal
signals, messenger-Iigures, and prophecy—begs an inclusion oI gender, since each
source corresponds to a particular gender: the nonverbal signals I discussed are noticed
by Iemale Iigures (Clytemnestra in the Agamemnon, the Chorus oI Theban women, and
Electra in the Choephoroi), whereas messenger-Iigures are invariably male.
Furthermore, the most conspicuous example oI prophetic truth resides in Cassandra, a
character who happens to be a woman. What makes this a speciIically gendered issue is
the varying degrees oI belieI elicited by these characters: Clytemnestra, the Theban
women, and Cassandra each meet with resistance to their claims, and in some cases their
interlocutors speciIically point to their gender as a basis Ior incredulity. These
coincidences oI gender and disbelieI are a useIul starting point Ior studying the credibility
assigned to each oI these sources oI truth because they raise the question oI to what
extent Aeschylus aligns credibility, or lack thereoI, with gender.
It is no secret that consideration oI gender is useIul in studying tragedy, as
evidenced by the abundance oI scholarship devoted to the topic
and by the numerous
reIerences to gender and gender diIIerences within the plays themselves: the Chorus oI
Danaids appeal to their Iather not to leave them, citing their Ieminine lack oI bellicosity
(µoνην δc µq πρoλειπε, λiσσοµαι, πuτερ· , γυνq µονωθεiσ’ οuδcν· οuκ cνεστ’ Aρης,
Supp. 748-749); Eteocles expresses impatience with the Chorus oI the Seven, ascribing
their supplicating behavior to womanly capriciousness (κρατοiσα µcν γuρ οuχ oµιλητoν
θρuσος, , δεiσασα δ’ οiκç καi πoλει πλcον κακoν, Sept. 189-190); Clytemnestra
Cassandra shares some characteristics with messenger-Iigures, but I do not include her in this category,
since the source oI her knowledge is so diIIerent Irom theirs.
See Winnington-Ingram 1983, 101-131; Goldhill 1984; Rabinowitz 1993; Zeitlin 1996; Wohl 1998;
McClure 1999; Foley 2001.
punctuates her rendition oI the Iall oI Troy with a reminder about her sex (τοιαiτu τοι
γυναικoς cξ cµοi κλuεις, Ag. 348); the Chorus oI the Agamemnon attribute the tendency
towards premature joy to the Iemale gender (γυναικoς αiχµµ πρcπει , πρo τοi φανcντος
χuριν ξυναινcσαι, Ag. 483-484); Orestes mocks Aegisthus Ior having a woman’s heart
(θqλεια γuρ φρqν, Cho. 305); and in the Eumenides issues oI gender underlie the two
opposing arguments as to whether a matricide trumps a mariticide.
In some ways Aeschylus seems to subscribe to a simple and Iamiliar paradigm oI
gender-based credibility in which women are not considered trustworthy.
example, the Chorus oI Danaids encounter skepticism in their interactions with Pelasgus,
the king oI Argos, who notices, among other things, their Iemaleness (Supp. 237). But
gender is only one identiIying diIIerence between the suppliant Danaids and their
interlocutors and it seems to work in tandem with other diIIerences to elicit antagonism
Βα. ποδαπoν óµιλον τoνδ’ uνελληνoστολον
πcπλοισι βαρβuροισι κuµπυκeµασι
χλiοντα προσφωνοiµεν; οu γuρ Aργολiς
cσθqς γυναικeν οuδ’ uφ’ 1λλuδος τoπων. (Supp. 234-237)
πρoς ταiτ’ uµεiβου καi λcγ’ εuθαρσqς cµοi. (249)
úπιστα µυθεiσθ’, e ξcναι, κλuειν cµοi,
óπως τoδ’ íµiν cστιν Aργεiον γcνος. (277-278)
From what country is this throng that I accost, clad un-Greekly and
reveling in Ioreign robes and snoods? The raiment oI these women is
neither Argive nor Greek.
…Reply and speak boldly to me.
…You speak things untrustworthy Ior me to hear, stranger-women, how
this Argive race is yours.
See Eum. 209-212, 217-221.
E.g., McClure 1999, 26 dates this tradition to Hesiod’s Pandora.
Despite the obvious Iemaleness oI the Danaids, Pelasgus’ primary preoccupation is with
which is a recurrent theme in the play.
It is clear that Pelasgus,
Irom the beginning, approaches the Danaids as inherently diIIerent Irom himselI and uses
language that emphasizes the diIIerences (uνελληνoστολον, 234; βαρβuροισι, 235; οu…
Aργολiς…οuδ’ uφ’ 1λλuδος, 236-237; ξcναι, 277). Accompanying this language is a
distrust oI the Danaids (úπιστα, 277) that stems Irom the diIIerence between their
appearance and the reality they claim. Pelasgus’ willingness to help the Danaids rests on
their ability to provide some prooI oI similarity between themselves and him, but their
eIIorts to do so are stymied by their egregiously non-Greek apparel.
But the very diIIerences observed by Pelasgus are at once expressions oI distance
and invitations to proximity. Pelasgus invites the Danaids to close the gap by using
language that evokes the reciprocity oI Iriendly exchanges (uµεiβου, 249); his reIerence
to them as strangers (ξcναι, 277) marks their diIIerence but also invites a relationship oI
alliance (xenia) and thus Iorges the connectedness inherent in guest-host relationships.
Furthermore, Pelasgus suggests his possible willingness to help the Danaids should they
persuasively demonstrate their Argive descent: διδαχθεiς ·δ’~ uν τoδ’ εiδεiην πλcον, ,
óπως γcνεθλον σπcρµα τ’ Aργεiον τo σoν (“II instructed, I would know this better, how
your race and seed are Argive,” Supp. 289-290).
The paradoxical relationship between Pelasgus and the Danaids, at once strangers
and kin to Argos, barbarians and Greek (uστοξcνων, 356), has been well summarized by
CI. Friis Johansen and Whittle 1980, ad 238-40: “Though he has oI course noticed their sex (cI. 237),
the King makes no Iurther reIerence to it until 277II. and, with the possible exception oI his allusion to
Amazons (287), displays no sign oI regarding it as in the least relevant or important. What is particularly
surprising to him is that Ioreigners should not have tried to secure any kind oI local assistance.”
CI. Mitchell 2006, 212 Ior a list oI reIerences to the Danaids’ un-Greekness.
In their Ilight Irom Egypt to Argos, the suppliants’ intermediate position
also corresponds to the position oI virgins, who are situated on the
margins oI society, betwixt and between, both “other” to the culture and a
part oI it…As insiders and outsiders, the Danaids are both Greek and
barbarian. They belong in the city yet remain Ioreign to it. (Zeitlin 1996,
We have seen the relationship oI the Ieminine to xenia in Pindar’s poetry, where the
guest-host reciprocity that is central to his epinician poetry is threatened by Iemale
deception. Aeschylus alters this relationship. Although he may seem at Iirst to resemble
Pindar in his depiction oI the Ieminine as a destabilizing “otherness,”
the example oI
the Danaids indicates that Ieminine destabilization occurs with the establishment, rather
than dissolution, oI xenia. The Danaids eventually win over Pelasgus with the tale oI
their descent Irom Io, which endears them to him, but creates the subsequent problem oI
the instability Argos will Iace should its citizens risk war with Egypt by helping the
Danaids. It is their position oI marginality that works both to the Danaids’ advantage and
disadvantage: as suppliants, they are entitled to request help under the auspices oI Zeus,
but as Ioreigners, they are subject to the suspicions oI a king wary oI Ioreign
Zeitlin has identiIied Iemininity as one Iorm oI “otherness,” but it should be stated
explicitly that in Aeschylus Iemininity is compounded by other diIIerences oI identity.
Credibility is granted to those who can establish similarity, while distrust obtains when
oppositions oI identity cannot be overcome. Thus Electra in the Choephoroi must
similarly build credibility with the Chorus oI slave-women who, although oI the same
For an introductory discussion oI opposition and diIIerence, see Zeitlin 1996, 1-15.
For an excellent study oI ancient supplication, see Naiden 2006, esp. 1-27 where he demonstrates that
successIul supplication requires a series oI actions beyond a mere plea Ior aid.
gender as Electra, are oI diIIerent socio-political status. In her address to them Electra
acknowledges this disparity but attempts to narrow the gap:
τqσδ’ cστε βουλqς, e φiλαι, µεταiτιαι·
κοινoν γuρ cχθος cν δoµοις νοµiζοµεν.
µq κεuθετ’ cνδον καρδiας φoβç τινoς·
τo µoρσιµον γuρ τoν τ’ cλεuθερον µcνει
καi τoν πρoς úλλης δεσποτοuµενον χερoς.
λcγοις uν εi τι τeνδ’ cχεις íπcρτερον. (Cho. 100-105)
Be accessories to this plan, Iriends, Ior we practice a shared hatred in the
house. Do not hide it in your hearts out oI Iear oI any, Ior doom awaits
both the Ireeman and the one ruled by the hand oI another. You might
speak iI you have anything better than this.
Electra establishes Iamiliarity by addressing the Chorus as φiλαι and by using terms oI
commonality (µεταiτιαι, κοινoν). Furthermore, she subordinates class diIIerences by
pointing out their shared hatreds and common Iates and by putting herselI in the position
oI advice-seeker, thus elevating the agency oI the Chorus, who in turn duly instruct
Electra and Iacilitate the emotional expression oI both Electra and Orestes.
Electra must take to ingratiate herselI with the Chorus resemble the Danaids’ rhetoric
towards Pelasgus and demonstrate that gender alone guarantees neither alliance nor
Gender in Aeschylus, then, is a more complicated issue than a simple dichotomy
between male and Iemale, since Iemaleness is only one characteristic that distinguishes
Iemale characters Irom their male interlocutors. By the same token the role oI gender in
issues oI truth and Ialsehood is similarly complicated. To generalize the ancient Greek
paradigm oI truth, Ialsehood, and gender as one in which women are treated as deceptive
and men are truthIul does not do justice to the complexity oI gender dynamics in
Aeschylean tragedy. Although several oI Aeschylus’ Iemale characters encounter
See Foley 2001, 154-159 Ior the Chorus’ role in the Choephoroi.
challenges to their credibility which might derive Irom ancient views oI Iemale
deceptiveness, my central argument in this section is that Aeschylus manipulates this
gender paradigm, thereby problematizing and perhaps even implicitly criticizing it by
showing how disbelieved Iemale characters in the end prove to be “right.”
The most prominent examples are the Chorus oI the Septem and Clytemnestra,
who each encounter a skepticism or even hostility that is connected speciIically to their
status as women, a speciIic point oI commonality that merits Iurther examination oI how
their gender inIluences the credibility they are accorded—or denied—by their
interlocutors. The Chorus oI Theban women receive a harsh response Irom Eteocles,
who Iaults their extreme anxiety, which he asserts is a Iemale tendency. AIter his initial
chastisement oI the Chorus he generalizes their behavior as a Ieminine trait and
concludes with a statement about the proper roles oI man and woman: µcλει γuρ uνδρi,
µq γυνq βουλευcτω, , τúξωθεν· cνδον δ’ οiσα µq βλuβην τiθει (“What is outside is a
man’s province: let no woman debate it; within doors do no mischieI!” 200-201).
It should be noted that Eteocles does not speciIically Iault the Chorus Ior being
deceptive or untruthIul, preIerring instead to characterize them as irrationally and
detrimentally IearIul. Furthermore, despite his explicit comments about the diIIerences
between male and Iemale, his conIlict with the Chorus seems to stem Irom their diIIering
world-views, a diIIerence Ior which gender serves as his shorthand explanation. As
Hutchinson and Brown observe, Eteocles and the Chorus express divergent religious
neither oI which is unambiguously “right”: as I noted earlier, Eteocles is partly
Hutchinson 1985 and Brown 1977 diIIer as to the precise nature oI this religious conIlict. Hutchinson
1985, 74 asserts that Eteocles’ problem with the Chorus is one oI religious practice rather than attitude:
Eteocles objects not to prayer itselI, but to the Chorus’ manner oI prayer. Brown 1977, 301, on the other
hand, interprets the scene as a conIlict between religious attitudes: Eteocles’ pragmatism contrasts with the
Chorus’ total submission to and trust in the gods. While I am inclined to agree with Brown more than
justiIied in his annoyance with the Chorus, Ior ultimately the total destruction oI Thebes
is avoided. But even so, the deaths oI Eteocles and Polyneices at the end oI the play also
demonstrate the deIiciencies oI Eteocles’ worldview and reIlect the short-sightedness oI
his Iraternal Ieud and his earlier rebuke oI the Chorus.
The case oI Clytemnestra proves a more prominent gender issue since her
Iemaleness is a recurrent point oI emphasis by both the Chorus oI the Agamemnon and
Twice does she conclude a speech with a reIerence to her
womanhood (τοιαiτu τοι γυναικoς cξ cµοi κλuεις, “Such things do you hear Irom me, a
woman,” Ag. 348; τοιoσδ’ o κoµπος, τqς uλqθειας γcµων, , οuκ αiσχρoς eς γυναικi
γενναiµ λακεiν, “Such is my boast, brimming with truth, not shameIul Ior a noble woman
to shout,” 613-614), and when her pronouncement oI Troy’s Iall is corroborated by the
Herald, she notes how she, despite being charged with a Iemininely premature joy (590-
592), observed the proper womanly duties oI sacriIice:
λoγοις τοιοuτοις πλαγκτoς οiσ’ cφαινoµην·
óµως δ’ cθυον, καi γυναικεiç νoµç
oλολυγµoν úλλος úλλοθεν κατu πτoλιν
cλασκον εuφηµοiντες, cν θεeν cδραις
θυηφuγον κοιµeντες εueδη φλoγα. (Ag. 592-597)
By such words I appeared to wander in my wits; nevertheless I sacriIiced,
and as is women’s custom one here, one there in the city uttered the
Hutchinson, I Iind the subtle diIIerences between their two arguments less important than their shared
premise that while Eteocles may describe his conIlict with the Chorus in terms oI gender, it is more a
matter oI religious diIIerence than gender-based animosity.
CI. Foley 2001, 48: “Whatever we are to think oI this scene in Seven against Thebes, however, the
tables are eventually turned on the emphatically rational Eteocles.” OI course, as with all Greek tragedy,
culpability lies dually with the individual and with larger Iorces at play. In some ways Eteocles cannot
prevent his downIall, which is decreed by Oedipus’ curse.
This is not to say that the Chorus oI the Septem do not selI-identiIy as women, but their reIerences to
womanhood are more general than speciIic to themselves and are less emphatically “gendered.” For
example, Sept. 326-335 discusses the general Iate oI women in the aItermath oI war, using Ieminine
participles and adjectives (τuς κεχειρωµcνας, 326; νcας τε καi παλαιuς, 327) rather than the noun Ior
jubilant cry, giving praise in the gods’ abodes, lulling the Iragrant Ilame
that Ieeds on incense.
Unlike the Chorus oI Theban women, whose religious worldview is questioned by
Eteocles more than their accuracy, Clytemnestra Iaces accusations that her accounts may
be Ialse. The Chorus initially doubt that news oI Troy’s Iall could come so quickly (280),
then re-orient their doubt around the questionable accuracy oI the beacon-Iires (475-482),
which in their view would be accepted only by a woman (483-484, 590-592).
Clytemnestra speciIically addresses challenges to her credibility using the same terms oI
gender as her challengers, thus emphasizing the gender basis oI the Chorus’ doubt and
demonstrating that their doubt and its basis are unIounded.
Despite the Chorus’ skepticism as to the accuracy oI Clytemnestra’s inIormation,
they do not overtly accuse her oI deceptiveness when she claims wiIely devotion in Ag.
613-614. Their only acknowledgement oI her duplicity in these lines is to mention
brieIly that her words beg interpretation (615-616);
later, they do try to warn
Agamemnon oI her disloyalty by advising him to exercise scrutiny as to the Iidelity oI his
subjects (783-809), but they do not explicitly point the Iinger at Clytemnestra, and
Agamemnon ignores them. Upon Clytemnestra’s description oI her husband’s murder
(1372-1398), the Chorus’ immediate reaction is to note her verbal audacity
(θρασuστοµος, 1399) and later the general atrocity oI the crime rather than her
deceptiveness, to which they Iinally allude nearly one hundred lines later (δολiç µoρç,
1495). Deceptiveness is not a trait the Chorus conspicuously assign to Clytemnestra;
even their doubt about the beacon-Iires stems Irom Iears oI hope-driven inaccuracy rather
than suspicions oI Ieminine deception, and the Iallacy oI their assessment is borne out by
Furthermore, these lines are notoriously opaque and can at best be read as a veiled warning about
Clytemnestra’s untruthIulness. See Denniston and Page 1957, ad 615-16 Ior the uncertainty surrounding
the events oI the play. Aegisthus in the Choephori makes a similar error oI judgment:
he, like the Chorus oI the Agamemnon, Iaults the Iemale race Ior letting emotion dictate
belieI when he hears the (Ialse) news oI Orestes’ death: πeς ταiτ’ uληθq καi
δοξuσω; , q πρoς γυναικeν δειµατοuµενοι λoγοι , πεδuρσιοι θρçσκουσι,
θνpσκοντες µuτην; (“How am I to suppose this tale is true and real? Is this a story born
oI women’s terror that darts upward and perishes in vain?” 844-846). In this case he is
correct: the news oI Orestes’ death is Ialse, but it is not Ialse Ior the reasons he assumes.
Instead oI perceiving deceit, he mistakenly attributes Ialseness to Iemale tendencies
toward irrationality. Ultimately his doubt does not save him, as he still enters the house
and meets his death. Aeschylus is implicitly critical oI statements about the Iemale
tendency to yield to emotion at the expense oI accuracy, which are proven Ialse as the
drama unIolds. Furthermore, he demonstrates that this gender-based doubt is
misdirected, since it Iails to expose and prevent the larger and more destructive deception
enacted by either Clytemnestra or by Orestes.
Cassandra Iaces similar challenges in that her prophecies are not invariably
welcomed and meet a receptive audience only when she describes Iamiliar events. But
her struggle is not strikingly similar to the Theban women’s or to Clytemnestra’s, as she
encounters neither hostility nor disbelieI but incomprehension. Moreover, her
interlocutors do not denigrate her prophecies as a symptom oI her Iemaleness, nor is her
gender conspicuous at all except when she tells the Chorus about the curse oI Apollo,
with whom they presume Cassandra has had a sexual relationship (1204, 1208). The
character oI Cassandra is relevant to my discussion oI how gender relates to issues oI
Note the choice oI participle βλcποντα, which implies that the report has a liIe oI its own. See Garvie
1986, ad 844.
truth and Ialsehood only in that she has diIIiculty being believed and that she happens to
be a woman, but her diIIiculty stems Irom incomprehension rather than mistrust, and her
Iemaleness is acknowledged but not held against her by her interlocutors. By the same
token the messenger-Iigures, who uniquely enjoy unquestioned credibility, are male
characters, but their maleness is not an emphasized, or even mentioned, component oI
their authority. Cassandra’s only association with Ialsehood or deceptiveness is made by
her own admission, when she explains that Apollo’s wrath stems Irom her deception oI
him: ξυναινcσασα Λοξiαν cψευσuµην (“I consented, and then played Loxias Ialse,”
What Cassandra, Clytemnestra, and the Chorus oI Theban women do have in
common is that they are proved correct as the events oI the play unIold. Given the
varying degrees oI emphasis on their gender, however, it is unclear how much their
credibility is hindered by their Iemaleness. Eteocles’ and the Chorus oI the
Agamemnon’s disdainIul comments about women should be read more as indicators oI
the vexatiousness oI the Theban women and Clytemnestra than as serious judgments
about Iemale credibility (or lack thereoI). Furthermore, not only are their generalizations
about gender proved incorrect, so too are their justiIications Ior their gender stereotyping.
The accuracy oI the beacon-Iires in the Agamemnon is vindicated as are Cassandra’s
prophecies and the dangers Ioretold by the dust-cloud in the Septem. It cannot be said,
then, that Aeschylus’ treatment oI his Iemale purveyors oI truth reIlects a misogynist
alignment oI Iemininity and deception such as we have seen in Hesiod or Pindar; iI
Aeschylus is implying anything about truth, Ialsehood, and gender, it seems to be a
criticism oI this paradigm. Even Clytemnestra’s guile is not easy to condemn since the
audience’s sympathies to her have been roused early on in the play with the story oI
Iphigeneia’s sacriIice (Ag. 205-247). Perhaps the old-Iashioned view oI Pindar as the
backward-looking preserver oI the past and Aeschylus as a progressive transIormer is
correct in this case,
as Pindar’s Iemale characters more conspicuously reIlect a
Pandora-like conception oI woman, whereas the Aeschylean treatment oI Iemale
characters is implicitly critical oI this view.
T TT TRUTH RUTH RUTH RUTH, ,, , F FF FALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD ALSEHOOD, ,, , AND AND AND AND E EE EXCHANGE XCHANGE XCHANGE XCHANGE
As I discussed in the previous chapter, Pindaric truth and Ialsehood must exist in
relation to the reciprocity oI xenia that underscores poet-patron relations. My discussion
oI truth and Ialsehood in epinician thereIore took into consideration the overriding Iorce
oI reciprocity and exchange: epinician truth complements praise and is even in part
equivalent to it and vice versa; Pindar expresses the negativity oI Ialsehood and deception
by depicting them in contexts oI relationships oI reciprocity, which they destabilize. As
in Pindar’s odes, exchange and reciprocity lie at the heart oI truth in Aeschylus, who
depicts messenger’s reports, themselves items oI verbal exchange, as the most credible
(although he also implicitly criticizes this view). As I discussed earlier, truth in tragedy
is maniIested in the verbal exchange between characters and is thus intimately tied to this
idea oI exchange.
A Iurther type oI exchange and reciprocity in tragedy, and perhaps the one most
discussed in Aeschylean scholarship, especially on the Oresteia, is the retributive justice
that drives the plots. In the Suppliants the Danaids appeal to Zeus Ior help, phrasing their
request in terms oI uλqθεια:
úγε δq λcξωµεν cπ’ Aργεiοις
εuχuς uγαθuς uγαθeν ποινuς·
Ζεuς δ’ cφορεuοι ξcνιος ξενiου
Summarized in Finley 1955, 3-8.
στoµατος τιµuς †cπ’ uληθεiµ
τcρµον’ uµcµπτων πρoς úπαντα†. (Supp. 625-629)
Come then, let us oIIer Ior the Argives good prayers, a return Ior good
things. And may Zeus oI strangers, blameless, behold Irom the mouth oI a
stranger oIIerings in truth, an end Ior all things.
It is natural Ior the Danaids to oIIer prayer to Zeus Xenios, who would protect them as
strangers and suppliants to Argos. The presence oI uλqθεια in this invocation,
the association between Alatheia, Zeus, and xenia that opens Olympian 10 and links truth
to reciprocal relationships:
uλλu σu καi θυγuτηρ
Aλuθεια ∆ιoς, oρθµ χερi
cνιπuν uλιτoξενον. (Ol. 10.3-6)
You and the daughter oI Zeus, Truth, with a correcting hand ward oII Irom
me the charge that I harm a guest Iriend with broken promises.
Whatever the correct text oI Supp. 628, the appearance oI uλqθεια in a context that
invokes reciprocity, both with an invocation to Zeus in his aspect as guest-Iriend and with
language that mirrors the symmetry oI reciprocal relationships (uγαθuς uγαθeν, 626;
ξcνιος ξενiου, 627), indicates the relevance oI truth to the reciprocity oI guest-Iriendship.
But the reciprocity that permeates Aeschylean tragedy is not conIined to the
exchange oI goods that underlies Iriendships or guest-host relationships. Instead, it is
aggression and violence that drive the tragic plots.
As Gagarin argues, “underlying all
|Aeschylus’| dramatic action is a Iundamental sense oI rise and Iall in human aIIairs, oI
The corruption oI the text here (uληθεiµ vs. uληθεiας) has Irustrated commentators and occluded precise
translation. CI. Friis Johansen and Whittle ad loc.: “to the achieving oI truth (sc. “that they may come
true!);” Grene and Lattimore 1991, 28 (using the translation oI Seth G. Benardete): “in true Irankness.”
For the sake oI simplicity and clarity I have here distinguished two types oI reciprocity, the reciprocity
oI charis (such as is Iound in relationships oI xenia or philia) as opposed to the reciprocity oI revenge, but
tragedy sometimes showcases the conIlict between the two. BelIiore 1998, 139-158 argues interestingly,
and Ior the most part convincingly, that “harm to philoi is a central element in the plot structures oI nearly
all oI the extant tragedies,” and some oI that harm results Irom a perpetuation oI retributive violence.
action and reaction, oI reciprocity, and oI dikē.”
Although Aeschylean dikē is
generally discussed in the context oI the Oresteia, there is evidence that similar themes
run through some oI the other Aeschylean tragedies: the Danaids make claims to dikē
(78, 343, 395, 406, 430, 437), always in connection with Zeus or the gods, although they
never provide speciIic reasons Ior their claims, as do the Egyptians,
and the loss oI the
rest oI the trilogy leaves unanswered whose claims prove ultimately to be the more valid.
But it is clear that the Danaids, like the other characters oI Aeschylus, show a concern Ior
reciprocity, both in beneIits that should be conIerred on their Argive beneIactors and in
retribution Ior the wrongs they have suIIered. Polyneices and Eteocles too each “have a
valid claim to dikē.”
Like Pindar’s epinician, Aeschylean tragedy presents a tit-Ior-tat
system, but the obvious diIIerence is that the Aeschylean model has a greater Iocus on
perpetuating acts oI violence rather than charis and is thus mutually detrimental to its
participants rather than beneIicial. It is this model oI exchange that I now propose to take
up, particularly in its relevance to truth and Ialsehood.
The relationship between truth and retributive violence is clearest when
Clytemnestra speaks with the Chorus in the aItermath oI her husband’s murder:
Χο. óνειδος qκει τoδ’ uντ’ oνεiδους,
δuσµαχα δ’ cστι κρiναι.
φcρει φcροντ’, cκτiνει δ’ o καiνων·
µiµνει δc µiµνοντος cν θρoνç ∆ιoς
παθεiν τoν cρξαντα· θcσµιον γuρ.
τiς uν γονuν uραiον cκβuλοι δoµων;
κεκoλληται γcνος πρoς úτµ.
Κλ. cς τoνδ’ cνcβης ξuν uληθεiµ
χρησµoν. (Ag. 1560-1568)
Gagarin 1976, 137.
The observations about and citations oI dikē are taken Irom Gagarin 1976, 129-130, 134.
Gagarin 1976, 120. See his discussion on pages 120-123.
Chorus: This reproach meets reproach, and it is diIIicult to judge.
Someone plunders the plunderer, and a murderer pays the price. It awaits
that the doer suIIer while Zeus abides on his throne, Ior it is the law. Who
would cast out the cursed stock Irom the home? The race is bound Iast to
Clytemnestra: You have come upon this prophecy with truth.
This passage serves to emphasize a cosmic system oI reciprocity and posits Zeus as the
overseer oI such a system. The repetitive language emphasizing the symmetry oI
reciprocity (óνειδος…oνεiδους, 1560; φcρει φcροντ’, 1562; µiµνει δc µiµνοντος, 1563)
recalls the similar repetition oI Supp. 625-629, but here the reciprocity is one oI
retributive violence rather than xenia. Just as Zeus oversees both types oI reciprocity,
uλqθεια serves as a Iurther common link as Clytemnestra acknowledges the inevitability
oI what the Chorus predict. More than a simple message accurately conveying events,
uλqθεια also characterizes the certainty oI reprisal Ior murder; divine law ensures this
reprisal, which, as we know, will be carried out by Clytemnestra’s son.
Truth is inextricably tied to this system oI reprisal, as it characterizes the
inevitability oI retributive aggression. This is made painIully clear by Cassandra, whose
access to truth via prophecy serves only to give her knowledge oI her disastrous Iuture
without the ability to prevent it; Ioreknowledge oI Agamemnon’s and her deaths does not
alter their unavoidability, and the Chorus and she are painIully aware oI this:
Χο. uπo δc θεσφuτων τiς uγαθu φuτις
βροτοiς στcλλεται; κακeν γuρ διαi
πολυεπεiς τcχναι θεσπιçδeν
φoβον φcρουσιν µαθεiν. (1132-1135)
From oracles what good message is sent to men? For through evil the
wordy arts oI prophets bring Iear to their listeners.
Κα. íπ’ αi µε δεινoς oρθοµαντεiας πoνος
στροβεi ταρuσσων φροιµiοις ·δυσφροιµiοις~. (1215-1216)
The Iearsome toil oI true prophecy whirls me around, disturbing me with
Χο. εi δ’ cτητuµως
µoρον τoν αíτqς οiσθα, πeς θεηλuτου
βοoς δiκην εuτoλµως πατεiς; (1296-1298)
But iI truly you know your Iate, how do you walk courageously toward the altar
like a god-driven cow?
In Iact the truth cannot be controlled by anyone, and accurate perception oI the truth
cannot alter the course oI events that are to unIold in accordance with the continuing
cycle oI revenge. With some degree oI accuracy the Chorus oI Theban Women can
predict disaster Ior Thebes, but they cannot prevent the deaths oI Eteocles and
Just as in Pindar where truth serves to strengthen the cycles oI reciprocity (xenia),
while Ialsehood dissolves them, in the Aeschylean Iramework oI retribution the truth
designates the inevitability oI vengeIul violence. The accuracy oI the beacon-Iires,
although doubted by the Chorus, signals the Iall oI Troy and Agamemnon’s return, which
will enable Clytemnestra to exact her revenge. Whereas in Pindar’s Pythian 11
Clytemnestra is depicted as a guileIul destroyer oI her marriage and Iamily, the depiction
oI her in the Agamemnon is a little more complicated, Ior the stage Ior Agamemnon’s
murder has been set with the account oI Iphigeneia’s sacriIice,
a personal wrong Ior
which Agamemnon must pay the price. Knowledge oI the truth only serves to bring
greater awareness to the Iorces oI retribution that govern the play. In the case oI
Cassandra this knowledge provides some comIort, however cold, as she understands that
Agamemnon’s and her deaths will trigger the vengeIul spirit and actions oI Orestes:
οu µqν úτιµοi γ’ cκ θεeν τεθνqξοµεν·
See Lebeck 1971, 60-63 Ior a discussion oI the sacriIice motiI in the Oresteia.
qξει γuρ qµeν úλλος αi τιµuορος,
µητροκτoνον φiτυµα, ποινuτωρ πατρoς. (1279-1281)
We shall not die unavenged by the gods. For another avenger oI us will
come in turn, a mother-killing scion, avenger oI his Iather.
Whereas truth strengthens the reciprocity oI retribution by emphasizing its
certainty, Ialsehood and deception play their parts by ensuring individual acts oI violent
revenge. Clytemnestra’s act oI deception, the cunning with which she lures Agamemnon
to his death, enables this particular instance oI retributive justice, but it will be
reciprocated by her own death in the Choephoroi, which, as Orestes describes, is eIIected
through tactics that mirror her own murder oI Agamemnon:
αiνe δc κρuπτειν τuσδε συνθqκας cµuς,
eς uν δoλç κτεiναντες úνδρα τiµιον
δoλç γε καi ληφθeσιν, cν ταuτ( βρoχç
θανoντες, p καi Λοξiας cφqµισεν
úναξ Aπoλλων, µuντις uψευδqς τo πρiν. (Cho. 555-559)
I recommend you conceal this agreement with me so that aIter killing an
honored man with a trick, they may be taken by a trick, dying in the same
snare as Loxias has prophesied, lord Apollo, the seer unlying heretoIore.
This marriage oI retributive violence with truth, Ialsehood, and deception dissolves in the
Eumenides when the cycle oI reciprocal vengeance comes to an end. The acquittal oI
Orestes cements the transIormation oI dikē Irom personal vengeance into legal justice
and coincides with the gradual disappearance oI truth and Ialsehood as aIIiliates oI
revenge; hence the relative inIrequency oI terms Ior truth and Ialsehood in the
Eumenides. When truth is mentioned, it is in contexts oI legal judgment where truth
CI. Garvie 1986, ad 556-8 who notes the recurrence oI the theme oI “tit-Ior-tat vengeance” in the
CI. Kitto 1961, 67-95. Many have noted, oI course, that this resolution is not altogether satisIactory:
Orestes’ crime being lesser than Clytemnestra’s should not automatically merit acquittal, nor does his
acquittal provide closure Ior the deaths oI guiltless innocents like Cassandra and Iphigeneia. CI. Cohen
accompanies a system oI justice based on equity rather than individual retaliation (cI.
Eum. 487-488: κρiνασα δ’ uστeν τeν cµeν τu βcλτατα , qξω διαιρεiν τοiτο πρuγµ’
cτητuµως, “AIter choosing the best oI my citizens, I will come to judge this aIIair
correctly;” Eum. 795-796: οu γuρ νενiκησθ’, uλλ’ iσoψηφος δiκη , cξqλθ’ uληθeς οuκ
uτιµiµ σcθεν, “For you are not deIeated, but justice by an equal number oI votes resulted
in truth, with no dishonor to you.”).
C CC CONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS
Aeschylus Iollows Homer’s lead in depicting truth as a primarily verbal entity but
adds Iurther speciIicity by depicting truth in contexts oI opposition to hopes, illusions, or
dreams, which are sometimes more readily believable because they reIlect desires. Yet
paradoxically truth is itselI an object oI desire, one that is achieved primarily through
communicative exchange between speakers, especially in messenger-reports. But
prophecy and nonverbal signs are also ways to access truth, although neither carries with
it the authority accorded to messenger reports; hence the contrasting vocabulary used to
describe the two means to truth (cτυµος vs. uληθqς). By showing that only messenger
reports are readily believed, but that nonverbal or prophetic sources are equally accurate,
Aeschylus implicitly criticizes a system oI ascribing belieI to some sources oI truth while
denying it to others, particularly when those sources are (erroneously) associated with
Iemale emotionality or gullibility. Finally, Aeschylean and Pindaric truth are natural
comparanda, Ior both revolve around systems oI reciprocity that pervade their respective
genres. For Aeschylus this reciprocity is primarily maniIested in violent acts oI
vengeance; the truth revealed to various characters is essentially knowledge oI this
vengeance. Falsehood and deception play a slightly diIIerent role in Aeschylus than in
Pindar: while acts oI deception destabilize relationships oI xenia or marriage, just as in
Pindar, they also act to reinIorce a diIIerent system oI reciprocity by enabling the
completion oI individual acts oI violence that perpetuate the larger cycle oI retribution.
C CC CHAPTER HAPTER HAPTER HAPTER F FF FIVE IVE IVE IVE: :: : C CC CONCLUSION ONCLUSION ONCLUSION ONCLUSION
The primary aims oI any interpretation oI literature are to Iacilitate and deepen
understanding. This project stemmed Irom a Iascination with Pindar’s unusual
personiIication oI aletheia in Olympian 10 and Fragment 205, which I consequently set
out to satisIy. What grew Irom this was a realization that there was a much bigger topic
to be studied here which extended beyond the bounds oI the Iour surviving books oI
Pindaric odes. I have endeavored with this dissertation to point out the need Ior scholarly
attention to truth and Ialsehood in Pindar and Aeschylus and to provide some oI that
I devoted Chapter Two to an examination oI various terms Ior truth and Ialsehood
in Pindar and Aeschylus. The purpose oI this examination was to supplement other
word-studies whose Iocus had been on Homer and Hesiod. In the course oI my
examination I Iound various complexities in Pindar’s and Aeschylus’ ideas about truth
and Ialsehood that diIIered or innovated Irom Homeric usage. Although distinctive in
their respective variations Irom earlier poets, both Pindar and Aeschylus similarly expand
on the conceptions oI truth inherited Irom their poetic predecessors. In particular they
each move beyond the idea oI truth as a verbal communication that accurately reIlects
what happened. Aeschylus uses words Ior truth and Ialsehood to designate suitability,
individual disposition, and statements about the past, present, or Iuture. He notably
enlarges the time dimension oI truth so that it is no longer limited to statements about
what has already happened. Pindar too manipulates terms Ior truth and Ialsehood,
making them more speciIic to the genre oI epinician poetry by including truth as part oI
his relationship to the laudandus and describing Ialsehood as anathema to such a
Taking note oI the broader ways in which Pindar and Aeschylus use terms Ior
truth and Ialsehood allows Ior Iuller comprehension oI their respective poetic aims.
When Pindar invokes the goddess oI truth (Ol. 10.4, Fr. 205), he reIers to accuracy both
in his poetry and in his obligation to the laudandus. In Chapter Three I explored various
contexts oI truth and Ialsehood in Pindar’s odes, examining direct reIerences to the
purpose oI poetry as well as the mythical digressions that were not overtly about poetry,
but could be understood as relevant to it because oI the similar language used by Pindar
to discuss both. The speciIic connection I saw between the two discourses was the model
oI xenia, which describes the relationship between poet and patron as well as various
relationships between the characters oI Pindar’s myths. In some cases, speciIically in
Olympian 1 and Nemean 7, the narrative oI the mythical digression blended into the
narrative oI the larger ode, thus lending weight to my premise that Pindar’s myths could
Iacilitate understanding oI his conception oI poetry. Pindar incorporates truth into the
relationship with his patron, thus verging on a notion oI truth that approaches sincerity
without abandoning accuracy. He very explicitly puts Iorth praise as his purpose, yet he
suggests that inaccurate praise is invalid and even takes measures to deIine truth in terms
oI the spirit oI praise and obligation that pervades epinician poetry. Deception and lies
are thus depicted as detrimental not only Ior their own atrocity but Ior their destabilizing
eIIects on relationships oI reciprocal obligation. My investigation in this chapter led me
to the conclusion that truth and Ialsehood in Pindar could not be understood outside oI his
relationship to the laudandus, which he constructs as one oI reciprocal obligation
governed by aletheia.
This conclusion in turn prompted me to hypothesize that ideas about truth and
Ialsehood in poetry are inherently related to genre. Accordingly, I devoted Chapter Four
to contexts oI truth and Ialsehood in Aeschylus with the aim oI discovering their
relevance to the playwright’s tragic objective. The various characters oI Aeschylean
tragedy desire to learn the truth even with Iull knowledge that it may be unwelcome.
What I Iound was that truth and Ialsehood in tragedy, as in Pindar, were inherently
communicative entities, but the tragic mode oI discourse diIIered Irom the epinician
lyricist’s in that communication oI truth involved the Iurther step oI acceptance or belieI.
Many characters claim to know the truth, but only some oI them can communicate it Iree
oI doubt. Both truth and Ialsehood—and belieI and doubt—served to Iurther the plot oI
reciprocal vengeance that permeates Aeschylean drama, truth by emphasizing the
inevitability oI retaliation, Ialsehood and deception by ensuring its enactment. My earlier
word-study allowed me to realize that when Aeschylus describes a prophecy as “true,” he
makes reIerence not only to its IulIillment, but also to the predetermination or
inevitability that surrounds prophecies related to plots oI reciprocal violence.
Thus Aeschylus parallels Pindar on two counts: he incorporates truth and
Ialsehood into the language oI his genre, speciIically by assimilating them to the cycles
oI reciprocal violence that pervade his plots, and he uses a model oI reciprocity as a
deIining Ieature oI his genre. This reciprocity obviously diIIers Irom epinician xenia in
that it consists oI retributive violence, which is a product oI personal Ieelings oI
vengeance and cosmic inevitability rather than oI Iriendly obligation. In short both poets
assimilate truth and Ialsehood to the purposes oI their respective genres: Pindar’s
epinician poetry is meant to praise and to aIIect its audience’s belieIs, while the goal oI
tragedy, iI we are to believe Aristotle, is to eIIect the experience oI pity and Iear through
the mimesis oI an action (Poet. 1449b); in Aeschylus this action usually takes the Iorm oI
violent reprisal. Both incorporate models oI reciprocity, oI systems in which no action
goes unrewarded (or unpunished), and despite the many diIIerences between Pindar and
Aeschylus in terms oI Iorm and purpose, both incorporate truth and Ialsehood into these
models. The dynamics oI this reciprocity diIIer between the two poets, oI course, and
part oI my purpose in this dissertation was to compare and contrast these dynamics.
Pindar as a lyric poet depicts a relationship oI xenia through his voice alone, and what we
see as the product oI this relationship is what the poet produces Ior his share oI the
agreement; we must accept the conceit that the relationship between the poet and his
patron is one oI xenia or philia, even though we cannot see this relationship Irom the
patron’s point oI view. The tragedian, by contrast, uses dialogue between actors and
reactors to present both sides oI a reciprocal relationship, a relationship in which he
himselI has no part.
In the medium oI tragedy where truth is communicated between interlocutors, the
issue oI truth involves credibility, since mere knowledge oI the truth does not ensure its
believability once communicated. This receptive aspect oI communication raises issues
oI the credibility surrounding truth in a way that Pindar’s monophonic lyric does not.
Thus Ialsehood in Pindar is rather straightIorwardly depicted as deception, whether
successIul or not, in contrast to the complicated dynamics oI credibility that surround
communicative acts in Aeschylean tragedy. Issues oI truth and Ialsehood in tragedy can
Iurther the onset oI retributive action whether through establishment oI credibility or
denial oI it.
My examination has also called attention to gender as a prominent issue to be
considered in truth and Ialsehood studies. Pindar depicts several Iemale characters as
harmIul to the stability oI ritualized relationships oI reciprocal obligation, since they
oIten have traits oI selIishness and seduction, which is a Ieminine Iorm oI deception. In
this way he recalls a previous model oI woman, dating to Hesiod’s Pandora, wherein the
Iemale is associated with sexual allure and deception, but he assimilates this model to his
own epinician genre by depicting such women speciIically as harms to xenia, the deIining
relationship between himselI and his patron. Aeschylus too reIers to this type oI woman,
primarily by showing how some Iemale characters have a hard time being believed.
Unlike Pindar, however, he oIten implicitly criticizes the Pandora-type by putting true
statements in the mouths oI his Iemale characters, who must overcome preconceptions oI
Despite the abundance oI scholarship on truth and Ialsehood, very little oI it has
paid substantial attention to Aeschylus and Pindar; this dissertation is meant as a Iirst step
toward addressing this need. Furthermore, I hope that my dissertation lays the
groundwork Ior Iuture considerations oI Pindar and Aeschylus as comparably genre-
driven poets. I have tried to show that truth and Ialsehood cannot be understood in a
vacuum and are reIlected in each poet as concepts that Iurther their generic aims. The
implications oI this argument are twoIold: neither Pindar nor Aeschylus can be
adequately interpreted without Iull consciousness oI their respective genres and how they
deIine them; Iurthermore, examinations oI generic purposes in Pindar and Aeschylus
should take into account their treatments oI truth and Ialsehood and how these concepts
reinIorce their aims. Future work on this topic might include a Iuller consideration oI
truth in epinician poetry, which would involve discussion oI Bacchylides, and an
expanded examination oI truth and Ialsehood in the tragedies oI Sophocles and Euripides,
what their tragic aims are, and how their presentation and characterization oI truth and
Ialsehood serve to Iurther those aims.
B BB BIBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY IBLIOGRAPHY
Adkins, A.W.H. 1972. “Truth, ΚΟΣΜΟΣ, and ΑΡΕΤΗ in the Homeric Poems.” CQ
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